By now, every member of the Penguins organization knows that only one team in NHL history has come from a 2-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final after dropping the first two games on the road.
The team to accomplish that feat was the Montreal Canadiens in 1971.
But forgive the Penguins if winning this series and hoisting the Cup for the third time seems a very real possibility at this point. Not only are the Penguins encouraged by their play in the first two games, but they already have overcome a 2-0 deficit in a playoff series this season.
The Penguins stormed back to defeat the Washington Capitals, 4-3, after losing the first two games of that series on the road. It marked the fourth time in franchise history that they erased a 2-0 deficit.
The Penguins will be looking to draw upon their experiences from the Capitals series tonight when they play host to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 at Mellon Arena.
• Matchup: Detroit Red Wings at Penguins, 8:20 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
• TV, radio: Versus; WXDX-FM (105.9).
• Series: Red Wings, 2-0.
• Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Chris Osgood for Red Wings.
• Penguins: Are 6-2 on home ice in these playoffs. ... C Sidney Crosby has been held without a point in consecutive games for first time this spring. ... Have failed to score power-play goal in three of past five games after getting at least one in each of previous seven.
• Red Wings: Have played just three of past 10 games on road. ... D Brad Stuart has two goals in playoffs, matching output in 67 regular-season games. ... Are outscoring opponents, 19-6, in third period in these playoffs.
• Hidden stat: Penguins have won Game 3 in six of past seven series.
"I think it feels a lot like the Washington series," winger Matt Cooke said yesterday at Mellon Arena. "We feel like we deserved at least a split, but that's not the situation that we've been given. We know that if we continue to play the right way and get to the areas that we need to that eventually those [shots off the post] are going to turn into goals, and we're going to come out on the winning side of things."
The snake-bitten Penguins have had more than their fair share of bad luck and officiating go against them in the first two games. They hit the goal post three times in Game 2 and had more quality scoring chances than the Red Wings.
Perhaps that is the reason the players had an understated confidence about themselves when they addressed reporters yesterday.
"I don't think we should be frustrated," defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. "I don't think we are frustrated because the series is not over. We're playing better, we're having chances and the series is not over.
"Going into this series, we knew it was not going to be easy. We're playing against a great team. And we knew it was going to be tough. So the series is not over, and that's why we're not frustrated and we keep playing and doing the same thing."
In that seven-game series against the Capitals, the Penguins rebounded by winning the third and fourth games at Mellon Arena. The Penguins then won Game 5 in Washington in overtime, lost Game 6 at home in overtime before winning Game 7, 6-2.
Coming back against the Red Wings would be one of the most impressive feats in franchise history. The Red Wings are going for their fifth Stanley Cup in the past 13 years. They have beaten the Penguins six times in eight tries the past two summers in Stanley Cup play and feature the type of stifling defense that will make it challenging for the Penguins' offensive-minded players.
The Penguins should benefit emotionally from playing at Mellon Arena, but more important they will have the opportunity to change the series tactically at home.
In the first two games in Detroit, the Penguins' first line of Sidney Crosby, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz was matched against Detroit's top defensive unit, led by Henrik Zetterberg when Detroit coach Mike Babcock controlled the matchups on the ice.
That should change tonight when Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has the option of matching Crosby, who has been held pointless in consecutive games, against different players.
"I think Crosby has done a good job of working and battling through it," Bylsma said. "We've gotten a number of situations where we've gotten scoring chances, good scoring chances and those are indications you look for. Are you getting the offensive chances you need to get?
"We've had pucks in and around their goalie. We've talked about a couple of situations where it's in the crease on the goalie, and there are scrambles. If those go in, you think Sid had a great game and he wins the matchup. But he did not, and now we're coming home and we may give him different looks depending on the situation of the game."
But the Penguins probably need a little more out of every line in order to beat the Red Wings, who have raced to their two-game lead without great offensive play from their top units.
The Red Wings have scored their goals by going to the net and getting to loose rebounds. Kunitz said the Penguins need to crash the net more often in hopes of getting pucks past Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood, who to this point is the odds-on favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy after stopping 62 of the first 64 shots he has faced.
"I think we need to put more pucks there and more bodies," Kunitz said. "We've had a few pucks laying around him last game. We just couldn't get our sticks on them to bang them in the net. But on the second and third chances we need to be closer to the net. We can't be shooting and hoping pucks squeak through and get in. We have to make sure they find the back of the net. We have to get there quicker. We have to be able to get off our checks one-on-one and get to the net and bang those. When we get the opportunity, we've got to score."
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1230. First Published June 2, 2009 4:00 AM