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Penguins

Shea-ved Ice: Pens On The Brink After 2OT Loss

By: Casey Shea
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Overtime hockey is one of the greatest spectacles in sports – unless your team is flirting with being pushed to the brink of elimination on any given shot.

Every second that passes is worse than the one that preceded it and at some point, breathing becomes optional.

You come out of your seat a little bit with every shot your team has on goal, while you sink further into your chair with every shot against. Your heart skips a beat with every shot off the post.

Your home could be burning down around you, but you won’t budge an inch so as to not upset the hockey gods.

The jubilation you feel when your team scores the game-winning goal is unmatched, while the agony of defeat is it’s ugly cousin.

In both instances, waking up the children or neighbors with screams is acceptable. So too is throwing small objects that aren’t nailed down.

It’s the ultimate emotional roller coaster and it will likely take years off your life.

But, would you really have it any other way?

Last night, the Penguins needed a win on the road in Game 3 to get back into the series against the Boston Bruins. While the first period was a little sloppy and resulted in the Bruins holding a 1-0 lead, the Penguins got better as the game went on.

Chris Kunitz scored the equalizer in the second period on a great pass from Paul Martin, but it would be the only goal the Penguins would score in the contest.

Patrice Bergeron’s winner in the second overtime period has now pushed the Penguins to the brink of being swept out of the playoffs. Think about that for a second. A team with a wealth of talent is on the verge of being swept.

Tuukka Rask flat out stole this game. He hadn’t been tested much in this series, but the Penguins peppered him with 54 shots in Game 3. It should be noted that those are just the shots that counted statistically.

Shots off the post don’t figure into the tally and the pipes turned in a masterful performance last night as well.

Seriously, in all my years of watching this sport, I’ve never seen a team ring iron this much and have nothing to show for it. Even Gordon Bombay would have been scared by the Penguins’ Three Bar skills last night.

You’re talking about fractions of an inch between it deflecting off the pipe and in and the Penguins haven’t gotten a single one this series.

Overall, it was the best performance in the series by the Penguins and they probably deserved a better outcome.

Tomas Vokoun kept the Penguins in it as long as he could, especially during the first period. The lone goal in regulation deflected off a teammate. It was almost as if that was to be taken as a sign of things to come.

His performance solidified head coach Dan Bylsma’s decision to go back to Vokoun after a rough outing in Game 2. Of course , the decision to put Vokoun in for the biggest game of the season is going to raise some questions about Marc-Andre Fleury’s future in Pittsburgh, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Speaking of Bylsma, he promised there would be changes to the lineup and he delivered. The only forward line he didn’t tinker with was the top line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. Ironically, that line scored the lone goal of the contest for the Pens.

The biggest changes saw Jarome Iginla dropped to the third line with Beau Bennett and Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke moved up to play with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.

Personally, I have no problems with the lines from last night. I liked the addition of Bennett to the lineup and thought he played very well. He’s going to be fun to watch over the next couple of years and deserves to be an everyday player next season.

Iginla looked more comfortable back at his natural right wing position and nearly scored a beauty in overtime on a diving play after turning a defenseman inside out.

As I said the other day, the problem with this team in this series isn’t a lack of talent. It’s not the Bruins being the superior team. It’s a lack of leadership, discipline and patience by the Penguins that has gotten them into trouble.

Don’t get me wrong, Boston has played well in the series, but if the Penguins played Games 1 and 2 like they did last night, there is no way they are in an 0-3 hole.

Game 3 lived up to the pre-series hype. It was an absolutely brilliantly played game of hockey. It was the brand of hockey you’d expect teams of this caliber to play.

Now, the focus shifts to Game 4. The Penguins now have to win four in a row to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. The odds are clearly stacked against them, but the Bruins did blow this same lead a couple years ago against Philadelphia.

For what it’s worth, the Baby Penguins rallied from 0-3 down to beat the Providence Bruins only a couple of weeks ago in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

As I said after Game 2, this team is certainly capable of coming back. By that, I mean they have the tools necessary to do so. It’s just a matter of staying patient and the leaders stepping up their game.

You can’t win four in one night, but you can start with one tomorrow night.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

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