PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Many have colored the Penguins’ 4-3 overtime loss to Philadelphia in Game 1 Wednesday night as the worst way a team could start a series.
Looking back, it’s hard to argue that point.
The Penguins were dominant in the first period, opening up a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov looked rattled and it appeared Pittsburgh had a new mentality that would prevent another Philadelphia comeback.
Boy, that couldn’t have been farther from the case.
The Flyers scored once in the second period and twice in the third to force overtime, and Jakub Voracek scored not three minutes into overtime to win.
“You just put it behind you as quick as possible,” Penguins forward James Neal said after practice Thursday. “Good teams do that. Guys that have been through this and been through series like this know that the better and the faster (you) put stuff like that behind you, it’s only going to help you.”
The consensus throughout the team is the Penguins got away from their game Wednesday night.
Failure to get pucks deep in the second and third periods was a problem. So were turnovers in the neutral zone, which created chance after chance for the Flyers as the game progressed.
And there was the power play, which on three different occasions presented the Pens with a chance to put the game away. Each opportunity failed.
“If you play well defensively and responsibly you are going to force their team to take chances,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “By playing good defense you are going to get opportunities offensively. You just have to stay patient. We got a little too excited when we made it 3-0.”
Pittsburgh watched a lot of film Thursday before practice, which lasted about 30 minutes. Every player aside from defenseman Matt Niskanen, who has been out with an undisclosed injury, participated.
Much of the film, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said, was dedicated to pointing out systematic flaws — specifically getting pucks deep and forcing the Philadelphia defense to work in its own zone.
Bylsma said that was a large contributing factor to the Penguins collapse in Game 1.
“Putting it behind the net is something we did in the second and the third period and got away from, the opportunity to make a statement and play on the fore check and get to the fore check and then play in the offensive zone,” Bylsma said. “We know we need to do (that) to be affective against this team. That is something that we looked at. During the game we talked about it. We talked about that mindset and doing that. I think it was something that we didn’t do as well as we needed to do.”
Thursday’s practice appeared no different than any other. Players were focused but the atmosphere remained light, which is typical.
Players and coaches seemed to understand what needs fixed and all appeared unfazed, despite being just hours removed from one of the more disappointing losses of the season.
“I think (Thursday) you come to practice and try to adjust or make changes in things you want to do better going into the game (today),” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “We know that that game’s over and we’ve got to make sure we’re better.”