By: Casey Shea

Well, the Penguins had a chance to end this series on home ice Saturday afternoon. However, any hope of that happening went out the window after the first period.

I guess I’m a little puzzled by how rattled the Penguins got after giving up two goals in 46 seconds. I mean, they dominated play for the first 15 minutes of the game so the wheels shouldn’t have come off so easily.

Chris Kunitz and Brooks Orpik came within inches of putting the Penguins on the board first. But, a dizzying passing display by the Lightning led to Simon Gagne’s goal, which opened the floodgates.

I know the Penguins are missing some big guns, but two goals is not an insurmountable deficit.

Look at the San Jose Sharks for example. In Game 3 of their series with the Kings, they erased a 4-0 deficit to win 6-5 in overtime.

Philadelphia went down 3-0 early against the Sabres in Game 5. They were able to rally and tie the game before losing 4-3 in overtime.

Let’s not forget, Tampa Bay went down 2-0 in Games 3 and 4 and fought back to tie the game.

The point here is that the Penguins were only down 2-0 after 20 minutes and it appeared as if they’d never been in that position before.

The guys I feel bad for are Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson, who were hung out to dry by their defense.

I lost track of how many goals were scored because the defense didn’t tie up sticks or box out Lightning players.

You can only ask your goalie to do so much before the finger needs to be pointed somewhere else. It’s not as if the goals they gave up were softies that would be momentum killers.

The defense essentially became front row spectators as Tampa Bay crashed the net and burned out the goal lights.

Also disturbing, seeing the Lightning go 4 for 6 on the power play.

I’m just going to chalk that up to the trend of the day. The Pens continually lost puck battles and were not effective in front of their own net.

Even stranger is how the home team has only won one game in this series. Pittsburgh won Game 1 2-0 at CONSOL Energy Center.

This isn’t just an anomaly in this series. Look around the league. Road teams are 23-16 in the playoffs heading into Sunday’s action.

What happened to home ice advantage this year? Is this further proof that the salary cap has created a more level playing field?

I’m at a total loss for an explanation, but I’m just hoping it bodes well for Game 6 Monday night.

Under Dan Bylsma the Penguins are 0-5 at home with a chance to win a series on home ice. However, they are 5-1 when faced with that scenario on the road.

The Root Sports crew casually threw out a proposition that I think the team should at least consider.

They suggested that the Penguins should stay in a hotel for home games to stay focused.

If you think about it, it has some merit.

When the team is on the road, they’re around each other all the time. The coaching staff is always around and there’s probably a collective sense as to what they’re there to do.

When they come home, they go their separate ways, get some home cooking and sleep in their own beds. It all sounds good, but there’s a potential for more distractions at home.

Whether it’s kids, friends, paying bills, etc. the distractions are there. By no means am I saying these are not important aspects of the player’s lives. Hockey is their job and a lot of people forget that.

In talking to some colleagues at work, I learned that the Pittsburgh Steelers stay in a hotel the night before a home game. It seems to have worked pretty well for them.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that the Penguins should not be allowed to go home.

All I’m saying is perhaps the night before a game, they should head to a team hotel to create more of a road game feeling.

Of course, with a win Monday night, the Penguins will have some extra time to ponder that decision for the second round.

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