It’s not that the Penguins can’t win a playoff series.
Hey, they’ve done it 11 times since 2008.
It just doesn’t happen very often on home ice.
Bylsma discusses Penguins' 5-1, Game 5 loss
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma discusses his team's 5-1 loss to the Rangers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. (Video by Matt Freed; 5/9/2014)
And when they play the way they did during a 5-1 loss Friday night against the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their second-round series at Consol Energy Center, it’s easy to understand why.
The Penguins, who had run off three consecutive victories, sputtered and stumbled and staggered their way through a dismal performance that set up a Game 6 Sunday at Madison Square Garden Sunday.
“There’s no beating around the bush,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “We just didn’t have it tonight.”
No, the Penguins didn’t have much of anything. Certainly, with rare exceptions, no passion or urgency that was visible to the naked eye.
“They controlled the play tonight,” winger Lee Stempniak said. “We knew they’d come out and be better, and we didn’t match that.”
The Penguins still can secure a spot in the Eastern Conference final with a victory Sunday and will have a Game 7 Tuesday at home, if needed.
Of course, given that the Penguins are 2-6 in Games 7 on home ice, playing another of those likely isn’t a terribly appealing option.
That record includes a 1-0 loss against Tampa Bay in 2011, when the Lightning won the series after climbing out of the same 3-1 hole New York was in before Game 5.
The Penguins, it should be noted, won Games 3 and 4 in New York, mostly because their play in those games bore scant resemblance to their sloppy work in Game 5.
“We had some unforced errors,” coach Dan Bylsma said of Game 5.
Enough to fill the better part of 60 minutes.
Every facet of the Penguins’ game — from a power play that failed to capitalize on an 83-second 5-on-3 advantage to the penalty-killers who yielded two goals to a power play that began the night in an 0-for-36 slump — contributed to the outcome.
Most, in a big way.
Evgeni Malkin, one of the few Penguins to play with any detectable desperation, provided their only highlight with a spectacular individual effort early in the second period.
He pushed the puck past defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal in the New York end and, after Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped his initial shot, threw in the rebound from along the goal line to the right of the net at 3:23.
The Penguins trailed, 2-0, when Malkin scored, and his goal revived his team and invigorated the crowd.
Just not for very long.
A few minutes after Malkin’s goal, Derick Brassard and Ryan McDonagh scored in a 50-second span as the middle of the period approached to give the Rangers a lead that never was threatened.
The loss marked the seventh time in the Penguins’ past eight chances to win a series on home ice that they failed to do so. And it was evident from the earliest shifts that the crowd shouldn’t have counted on witnessing a handshake line.
The Penguins, who spoke so earnestly before the game of needing to match New York’s desperation, displayed the killer instinct of a sedated lamb from the earliest moments.
The Rangers, held to 15 shots in Game 4, launched 17 at goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. In the first period.
And they put a couple behind him.
New York’s power play entered the game in a 0-for-36 slump and had been 0 for 15 in this series, but Chris Kreider beat Fleury on a rebound from the bottom of the left circle at 9:36 of the opening period to cap New York’s first try with the extra man.
Brassard got what proved to be the winner when he corralled a Mats Zuccarello rebound in front of the net and threw a backhander past Fleury at 15:23 to make it 2-0.
New York defenseman Kevin Klein hit an empty net late in regulation to put New York up by four, but the game effectively was over long before he scored. And now, a series that could have ended with little suspense has the potential to get quite interesting.
“It’s a missed opportunity, Game 5 here at home,” Bylsma said. “But we have to turn the page.”
If only to find out whether the next chapter has a more satisfying ending.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published May 9, 2014 9:50 PM