Penguins winger Lee Stempniak celebrates his goal in the second period of Game 1 Friday night at Consol Energy Center.
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins know about coming from behind in games.
They have trailed at some point in three of their four wins in the playoffs. They have come back from two-goal deficits three times, winning twice.
What they had not done was trail in a series -- until New York took a 1-0 lead in Round 2 with a 3-2 overtime win Friday.
Sitting behind the Rangers in this series is affecting the Penguins, though not necessarily in an adverse way.
"It's stressful in the sense that when you lose, whether you're down in a series or not, you always want to play right away," winger Craig Adams said Saturday. "You want to play again the next night. The waiting is the worst."
The Penguins have to wait for Game 2 only until tonight at Consol Energy Center.
They don't expect any sort of hangover from Friday.
"You sort of go from game to game, no matter what. ... We're going to be better," winger Lee Stempniak said. "You don't want to lose two games, obviously, but we've battled back from being down within games. I expect a good response."
The Penguins considered their final two games against Columbus in the first round, 3-1 and 4-3 wins, something of a blueprint for what their game should look like in the playoffs.
They went off-script in the first period of Game 1 against New York and trailed, 2-0, before the first intermission.
"We didn't get the start we wanted. They came on us hard," winger Jussi Jokinen said.
It was nearly a different Penguins team that returned from the locker room for the start of the second period. They controlled the play and forged a 2-2 tie, a score that stood until Derick Brassard won it for the Rangers in overtime.
Explaining the huge shift in their play in that and earlier games is difficult for the Penguins.
"Especially in the playoffs, there are changes in momentum," Stempniak said. "It's hard to win games. Every team's playing hard and bringing their best. We're striving to play that complete 60 minutes, and we have to overcome what the other team is doing."
Jokinen said he has noticed that there are abrupt changes in momentum across the series in these playoffs.
"You get up in the games and the other team starts to be a little more desperate and they just keep coming against the other team," he said. "When we get leads, we have to keep the other team off of the scoreboard.
"The momentum is going to change a lot through this series, too. When you get the momentum, you want to keep playing in their zone and try to keep getting those scoring chances and those goals."
Still, having a bad period here, a couple of good periods there, isn't ideal.
It could be construed as a problem with consistency.
"I think so, yeah," Adams said. "There are always going to be ups and downs in games, ebbs and flow, but when you look at our first period compared to our second period [Friday], we need to be more like we were in the second all the time."
The question becomes, how?
"I'm not sure why it's hard," Adams said. "It shouldn't be as hard as we make it sometimes. We're playing against good teams. We can't forget that."
One reliably consistent aspect to the swings in momentum has been that it puts the Penguins in position to address those issues on a regular basis.
Pretty much invariably, they answer with a wish list for their games, one that isn't about confidence, emotion or mentality, but about X's and O's.
Stempniak said when the Penguins dissect their games out of earshot of those not on the club, the tenor of those conversations doesn't change.
"A lot of the things we talk about are pretty simple things," he said. "I think we're really a positive group. We know when we're playing well; we know when we're struggling.
"When we're at our best, we're in there on the forecheck and creating turnovers and getting those second and third [scoring] chances. The onus is on us to do that every shift, to put in the hard work and skate and be aggressive and create those turnovers."
And to do that without letting stress build up over being behind in the series.
"There's no panic in [the locker room]," Adams said. "It's one game. We need to play a lot better. There's going to be some urgency [tonight] for sure."
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.
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