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Quest for the Cup: Penguins trailing series for first time this postseason

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins face their first series deficit of the postseason. (USATSI)
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins face their first series deficit of the postseason (USATSI)

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First star game of the day

Game 2, Boston at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN):

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in unfamiliar territory in the Eastern Conference finals. For the first time this postseason, the Pens are trailing in a series after dropping Game 1 to the Boston Bruins 3-0.

This isn't the first bout with adversity for the Penguins in these playoffs, but it certainly adds a new perspective and perhaps puts a little extra urgency on getting a win on home ice in Game 2.

“It's the first time we're trailing. So I think when you look at the standings board in our room and they have one and we have zero, it's a different look,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday. “We've lost hockey games in this [postseason], and we look at where we need to get better and where we didn't get things accomplished [Saturday]. And we know we've got to rebound with our Game 2 performance.”

There is added pressure beyond the desire to draw even in the series after the Penguins unraveled a bit in Game 1. Facing an unbeatable Tuukka Rask, getting agitated by Boston's aggressive physical style and a little shakiness in Tomas Vokoun's play in the series opener, the Penguins have a lot of questions to answer in Game 2.

Though Bylsma wants to see more discipline from his team, he hopes the intensity level doesn't drop heading into Monday's action.

“I think the emotional level of each game is highly contested,” he said. “That emotion, that compete level has to be there. It has to be there from our best players. I think our compete level has to be even higher than it was the last game.”

For the Bruins, there's an opportunity to take a 2-0 lead back to Boston. Coming out of a 3-0 win in Game 1 should help with the confidence level, particularly after getting the performance the Bruins did out of Rask.

The 26-year-old netminder made 29 saves to shut out the league's most potent offense, the first whitewashing of his postseason career. Rask is now operating with a .933 save percentage and 2.06 goals-against average in the playoffs.

The Bruins were also dominant on draws in Game 1 as they have been throughout the playoffs, winning 32 of 48 faceoffs. That's an area that Bylsma wants to see the Penguins improve.

“A large portion of the wins that Boston did get [in Game 1] were not clean wins,” Bylsma said. “They were 50/50 pucks in around the centermen that they got to first. I think that's something I talked about going in, for our focus for our faceoffs and winning faceoffs, helping our centermen going out.”

Performance in the faceoff dots in Game 2 might give a good sense of Pittsburgh's urgency in what some might consider a must-win game. Battling for those loose pucks and fighting for possession is something the Pens couldn't establish with any amount of consistency in the first meeting with the Bruins.

Maintaining discipline and being more aggressive in winning possession are two key areas the Penguins will need to focus on if they hope to end their first series deficit of the playoffs.

Snap shots

• One of the Bruins perhaps not receiving enough attention this postseason is Nathan Horton, who has been elevating his game as the postseason progresses. (ESPN Boston)

• Mentioned as one of the more underappreciated players in the playoffs by our Brian Stubits on Sunday, that might change soon as David Krejci is beginning to stake his claim among the league's elite. (NHL.com)

Mike Richards was a last-minute scratch for the Kings in Sunday's Game 2 loss to the Blackhawks. Coach Darryl Sutter said he told Richards, who got up slowly following a hit in the closing minutes of Game 1, “Unless you're 100 percent, you're not playing." The pair mutually agreed the forward shouldn't play. If Richards' absence is extended, that's a big void in LA's lineup. (NHL.com)

• Sutter explained that his decision to pull Jonathan Quick after he gave up four goals in Game 2 was based more on the schedule than anything else. (LA Daily News)

• Chicago forward Bryan Bickell has taken his game to another level this postseason, proving to be the power forward whom Joel Quenneville envisioned he could be. (National Post)

 
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