Watching Penguins game not for faint of heart


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Perhaps Penguins tickets and broadcasts this season ought to come with a disclaimer.

Something along the lines of, "Viewer discretion advised. Portions of some games may be unsuitable for fans with weak hearts."

The Penguins have gone into overtime in half their 16 games and have developed a habit for blowing leads or staging comebacks -- sometimes both in the same game.

All that excitement could be tough on the more aged segments of the fan base.

Or on others.

"You talk about older people, but I don't know if our coaches are going to make it through this if we keep doing it to them," defenseman Brooks Orpik said yesterday after the team practiced at Mellon Arena in preparation for its home game tonight against Buffalo.

Consider the two games the Penguins have played this week.

In a stirring rematch with their Stanley Cup final opponent, they erased a three-goal, third-period deficit in a rally that ended with a 7-6 overtime win Tuesday in Detroit.

Two nights later at home, the Penguins took a 3-0 lead against Philadelphia, watched the Flyers come back to take a 4-3 lead, then pulled out a 5-4 shootout win.

"We've blown a few leads we shouldn't have," said forward Jordan Staal, who had a third-period hat trick in Detroit. "At the same time, we've come back in a few, too. There are positives and negatives."

A few other examples:

• In an early sign of things to come, the Penguins lost a one-goal lead, fell behind by one, then came back for a 4-3 overtime win against Ottawa in the teams' season opener in Stockholm, Sweden.

• In their first game against the Flyers, Oct. 14, they squandered a 2-0 lead before pulling out a 3-2 overtime win.

• After entering the third period with a 2-0 lead Oct. 25, the Penguins lost, 3-2, in a shootout against the New York Rangers, a collapse that started a three-game losing streak.

• In one that didn't need overtime to be a nail-and-cuticle-biter, the Penguins built a 5-0 lead Nov. 6 against Edmonton before hanging on for a 5-4 win.

"I wish we didn't need to go into overtime or past regulation," said forward Max Talbot, who might have started all this when he scored in the last minute at Detroit in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final to set up an overtime goal by Petr Sykora and keep the Penguins' championship hopes alive.

"In one way, it's building character. We can learn to win in pressure situations. Our record is pretty good in overtime and shootouts."

Yes, it is.

In their eight games that have been tied at the end of regulation, the Penguins are 3-1 in those decided in overtime and the same in games decided in shootouts.

Overall, they have won five in a row and, at 10-4-2, are on pace to collect 112 points. That would be 10 more than last season, when 102 was good enough to win the Atlantic Division and finish second in the Eastern Conference.

"That's not a bad year," Staal said of the projection. "We're getting lots of points."

They just aren't sure they want to continue getting them the same way.

"It's not a position we want to put ourselves in time after time because teams are too good, and it's going to catch up to you eventually," Orpik said. "I guess the good thing is we found a way to win these games. It's kind of a broken record to say you learn from your mistakes because we obviously haven't."

They have learned something about themselves, though.

"We kind of know that when overtime comes, we know what we can do," Talbot said. "We have confidence we can win those games.

"But the whole spirit in the dressing room is that we're not satisfied. We're not at our best right now. If we can improve these things, we can be a better team and we wouldn't have to go into overtime all the time."

After all, at this rate, overtime looms for a whopping 41 games.

"It makes it exciting for the fans," Staal said, "but it's tough on our hearts sometimes, too."

Scouting report

Matchup: Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres, 7:38 p.m., Mellon Arena.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Ryan Miller for Sabres.

Penguins: Are 3-1 vs. Northeast Division. ... Swept the Sabres in four games last season. ... Evgeni Malkin has 12-game point streak (5 goals, 18 assists) and Kris Letang has five-game assist streak.

Sabres: Are 3-0 vs. Atlantic Division. ... Have best road penalty-killing, 96.9 percent with just one goal allowed. ... Clarke MacArthur is among league leaders in shooting percentage (.286).

Hidden stat: Buffalo was one of eight teams without a shorthanded goal going into last night.




Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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