Penguins are 0-1, but far from done



It is the kind of thing that happens in the NHL.

A lot.

Actually, in every single playoff series.

Just not to the Penguins.

Not this year, anyway.

Well, at least not until their 3-0 loss Saturday night to Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final at Consol Energy Center.


Scouting report

  • Matchup:

    Penguins vs. Boston Bruins, 8:10 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.

  • TV, Radio:

    NBC Sports Network, WXDX-FM (105.9).

  • Probable goaltenders:

    Tomas Vokoun for Penguins. Tuukka Rask for Bruins.

  • Penguins:

    Trail in a series for the first time this postseason. ... Won just 33 percent of faceoffs (16 of 48) in 3-0 Game 1 loss. ... Pascal Dupuis and Brenden Morrow each had four hits in Game 1.

  • Bruins:

    Have won Game 1 in their three series this year. ... David Krejci leads playoff scoring with 19 points and has five multi-point playoff games since 2010. ... Have gotten 31 of their 115 points this postseason from defensemen (27 percent), including 13 of their 41 goals (31.7 percent).

  • Hidden stat:

    Boston's Jaromir Jagr has four career playoff overtime goals, all while playing for the Penguins.


That defeat marked the first time in two-plus rounds in the 2013 playoffs the Penguins have trailed in a series, a simple truth that adds a genuine urgency to Game 2 here at 8:10 tonight.

Beat the Bruins, and the Penguins will be on reasonably even footing when the series shifts to Boston, even though the Bruins are guaranteed to leave town with home-ice advantage.

Lose again, though, and the Penguins' playoff survival will hinge on winning four of five games, three of which would be on the road, against an opportunistic and efficient opponent.

But the Penguins -- at least the handful of them who spoke with reporters Sunday before an optional practice -- seemed far less flustered about their situation than they had been at times in Game 1.

"You'd like to be up, 1-0, obviously," winger Brenden Morrow said. "But we didn't expect it to be a short series."

Fact is, there was much about their performance in the opener, especially early, that the Penguins hope to replicate in Game 2.

They generated numerous scoring chances, even though they were unable to capitalize on any, and seemed satisfied that Boston hadn't gotten an inordinate number of them.

"For the most part, we were pretty happy with how we played," center Brandon Sutter said. "The last period, we definitely didn't play as well as we did the first two.

"We came out well, came out hard. We had some chances and just couldn't bury them. ... But for the most part, I thought we played pretty well."

What they didn't do particularly well was maintain their composure and focus.

The Penguins appeared to get distracted by what they considered inconsistency in the work of referees Brad Watson and Chris Rooney, and lost core players on several occasions because their emotions flared.

Paul Martin pointed out an obvious truth -- "There are only two refs, and they can only see so much. It's up to us to play our game, no matter what they call" -- and fellow defenseman Douglas Murray said it's premature to think lapses in self-control will be the norm for his team in this series.

"It's one game," Murray said. "If it keeps going, I think you could [label it] a trend. But you have to play right on the edge.

"You have to be competitive out there and play hard, and sometimes it goes overboard. It did a little bit [in Game 1]. We'll learn from it, and move on."

The importance of doing so might have been most obvious at the end of the second period in Game 1, when Evgeni Malkin decided to trade punches with Bruins center Patrice Bergeron.

Their fight, coupled with a run-in between Penguins winger Chris Kunitz and Boston's Rich Peverley five seconds earlier, meant 40 percent of the Penguins' No. 1 power-play unit was not available for a 90-second man-advantage at the start of the third period.

The Penguins were trailing, 1-0, at that point, so the significance of that power play is hard to overstate.

"When you're on a power play and your skilled players, Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin, are going off the ice, it's not a situation you want to be in," coach Dan Bylsma said.

The Penguins, of course, did not score then, and Boston got the only two goals of the period.

While the Penguins offense had some miserable luck throughout the game -- "I think we hit three or four posts," Morrow said -- their fortunes might improve if they win a few more faceoffs, too.

The Bruins controlled two-thirds of the ones in the opener, going 32-16.

"Obviously, we weren't too happy with our percentages," said Sutter, who was 3-7. "You want to try to get that puck. It's a possession game, and we didn't do a good enough job on them."

What's most troubling for the Penguins is that a lot of those came on draws that had no clear winner, but on which the Penguins ultimately were out-hustled or outworked.

"[The Bruins] won the lion's share of those 50-50 pucks," Bylsma said.

Boston's edge on faceoffs in Game 1 aside, the Penguins had some significant advantages of their own for much of the game. Enough that they believe they have a template for tying the series tonight.

"We came out the right way," Sutter said. "If we can stay with that for the whole game, I think we'll give ourselves a good chance."

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG First Published June 3, 2013 4:00 AM


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