Stanley Cup playoffs: Overtime losses hard to forget for Penguins


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Over the course of the Penguins' 43-year franchise history, the longest overtime games have shaped series.

While it is a hockey mantra that momentum in the Stanley Cup playoffs is created from game to game, history suggests it is hard to overcome a loss that goes deep into the night on home ice.

When Keith Primeau of Philadelphia scored a goal in the fifth overtime of Game 4 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series in 2000 at Mellon Arena, it was the first of three consecutive victories for the Flyers en route to a 4-2 series win.

Conversely, when Petr Nedved scored in the fourth overtime of Game 4 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series in 1996, it was the first of three consecutive victories for the Penguins on their way to a 4-2 series win against the Washington Capitals.


Today

Game: : Penguins at Ottawa Senators, 7:08 p.m. today, Scotiabank Place.

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

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Pascal Leclaire for Senators.

Penguins: Won Games 3 and 4 in Ottawa, outscoring Senators, 11-6. ... Sidney Crosby, 68-49 on faceoffs, is only center to win more than he has lost. ... Have been credited with playoff-leading 210 hits.

Senators: Have lost five consecutive home playoff games. ... C Jason Spezza, RW Daniel Alfredsson have at least one point in each of first five games. ... Own second-most efficient power play in these playoffs with conversion rate of 35 percent.

Of note: Five of the Penguins' past seven series-clinching victories have come on road.


Those two epic games are the longest and second-longest games in franchise history. The Penguins played the fourth-longest game in club history Thursday night, falling to the Ottawa Senators, 4-3, in the triple overtime.

The four-hour, 40-minute Game 5 undoubtedly was physically draining, but perhaps the most important thing for the Penguins as they enter Game 6 tonight at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa is how they handle the emotional impact of losing a potential series clincher on home ice.

"There's a great challenge for both teams to reset emotionally in very short order," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We have to travel and play Game 6. That's a difficult thing to do. You have reset emotionally where you're at, your mindset and how you want to play."

Not that the Penguins are without a road map. Take the length of the game out of consideration, and they have been in similar situations the past couple of years in the playoffs.

The loss Thursday night was the Penguins' third in a row on home ice when they had a chance to clinch a series. They lost Game 5 at home against Philadelphia in an opening-round series last year and had to win Game 6 on the road. In the following series against Washington, the Penguins lost Game 6 in overtime and had to win Game 7 on the road.

"Last year, that was kind of our m.o.," Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton said. "We never made it easy on ourselves. It's a situation we've all been in and we know how to deal with it physically. We're looking forward to another opportunity Saturday night."

The Game 5 loss to the Senators was the seventh overtime game the Penguins have played since the beginning of the 2008 playoffs. The Game 6 loss to the Capitals was their only previous overtime playoff loss over the past three seasons.

Eaton believes the experience the Penguins have gained the past few years will help tonight.

"Experience goes such a long way in the playoffs," Eaton said. "It's not the end of the world. We still have another crack at it Saturday, and that's what we have to focus on -- playing our best game Saturday."

The Penguins played far from their best for the first 15 minutes of Game 5. They allowed the Senators to take a 2-0 lead 11 1/2 minutes into the contest, allowing a power-play goal and an even-strength goal after failing to get the puck out of their zone.

They roared back to tie the score by the end of the second period and held a short-lived lead in the middle of the third period before the Senators tied it and sent the game into overtime.

"You have to forget about this," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. "We have a chance to finish it. We just have to take it and make sure we're not doing the same mistakes."

Many of those mistakes came in the first 15 minutes. After the Penguins awoke from their early slumber they controlled the puck and created plenty of offensive chances. They peppered Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire with 59 shots and had the better of the play for long stretches in the game.

Bylsma and many of the players were looking at the way the Penguins played over the final five periods as a positive moving into Game 6.

"Our guys battled long and hard in this one," Bylsma said. "We did a lot of good things. We fired a lot of pucks at [Leclaire], but they fought hard and gave themselves a chance to go back to Ottawa for Game 6. We have to be ready go back to Ottawa and play our very best."


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230.


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