The Penguins have spent the past few regular seasons earning home-ice advantage for the playoffs. Sometimes, it's not really clear why they bothered.
They have had home ice in nine consecutive series, beginning with the first round in 2010.
With a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in the opener of their Eastern Conference second-round series Friday night at Consol Energy Center, they have started 2-0 in exactly one of them.
Bylsma discusses second-round OT loss to Rangers
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma discusses his team's 3-3 second-round overtime loss to the Rangers in Game 1 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Video by Matt Freed; 5/2/2014)
"You can't win every game, can you?" right winger James Neal said. "It's the playoffs. Every game is hard to win. It's a battle out there."
Rangers center Derick Brassard assured the Penguins would lose this battle when he stuck a shot under the crossbar behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 3:06 of overtime, although it was not immediately evident that the puck had entered the net.
Indeed, play continued for seven seconds until Benoit Pouliot scored what initially appeared to be the goal that ended the game.
A video review subsequently determined that Brassard's goal was the one that had given New York has a 1-0 lead in the series, which will resume with Game 2 here Sunday at 7:38 p.m.
The Penguins have played three overtime games in these playoffs, and lost them all.
They had hoped to grab an early advantage in the series because Game 1 was New York's fourth game in six days and part of a stretch of six in nine. It also came less than 48 hours after the Rangers clinched a spot in this round with a 2-1 victory against Philadelphia in Game 7 of the opening round.
The Penguins, conversely, had been off since defeating Columbus, 4-3, in Game 6 of Round 1 Monday night.
"We thought they'd played a lot of hockey the last nine or 10 days and were hoping to jump out on them and get Game 1," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "Instead, it turns out the other way, and we have to come back."
The Rangers definitely didn't start the game like a team that was dealing with fatigue. Perhaps because the Penguins looked so utterly out of synch for most of the opening period.
"We just didn't play well," Neal said. "We just didn't come out and play the way we wanted to.
"They were coming off a big Game 7 win and pushing forward, and we didn't push back."
Pouliot got in the first major shove at 5:04, when he carried the puck from near his own blue line into the Penguins' end before whipping a shot past Fleury from the slot for a 1-0 lead.
He scored nearly two minutes before the Penguins recorded their first shot against New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
That didn't happen until defenseman Paul Martin tossed one at him from near the blue line seven minutes into the game.
New York, which controlled the first 20 minutes, capitalized on a coverage gaffe to take a 2-0 lead at 17:03.
With his partner, Olli Maatta engaged with Rangers winger Carl Hagelin behind the Penguins goal line, defenseman Matt Niskanen left the front of the net uncovered.
Hagelin threw a pass out to Brad Richards, who had the time to take the feed on his backhand, then pull it onto his forehand before tossing it past Fleury.
"They took it to us [in the first period]," Fleury said.
The Penguins regrouped during the intermission, however, and got a couple unanswered goals of their own in the second.
Lee Stempniak got their comeback going at 7:15 as he took a backhand pass from Beau Bennett before backhanding a shot by Lundqvist from the left hash for his second goal of the playoffs, and Neal pulled the Penguins even at 13:28.
He took a shot from the slot that hit Lundqvist and tumbled into the air behind him.
Evgeni Malkin, positioned to Lundqvist's left, swung at the puck as it was dropping and appeared to make contact with Lundqvist's glove arm.
A video review, however, concluded Malkin did not strike the puck, so the goal was upheld.
Still, that was the last puck that eluded Lundqvist, who made overtime possible when he denied Stempniak from in front of the net with 13 seconds left in regulation.
Lundqvist's save gave Brassard a chance to be the hero and to put the Penguins at risk of starting 0-2 for the third time in their past six series.
Perhaps, for them, there really is no place like home.
But that isn't necessarily a good thing.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
First Published May 2, 2014 10:05 PM