PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Two painful truths are present for these Pittsburgh Penguins.
One, they have dominated the Philadelphia Flyers for considerable stretches of periods and still lost.
Two, they have fallen asleep for considerable stretches of periods, directly contributing to those losses.
Both have combined to result in a 3-games-to-none hole in which the Penguins will attempt to climb out of in this first round series against Philadelphia. Game 4 is at 7:30 p.m.
“We’ve got to find a way to put together a full game,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “That’s really what it comes down to. I think there has been a lot of periods in games where we’ve looked really good, but there’s also times when we’ve made big mistakes. We’ve got to put a full game together here.”
From the drop of the puck in Game 1, Pittsburgh was the far better team. However, the third period was a different story, as the Flyers tied the game and then won it in overtime, 4-3.
Game 2 featured another dominating first period and a 3-1 Penguins advantage. The following two periods were far more inconsistent and the Flyers ended up with a 8-5 win.
More of those inconsistencies carried over into Game 3 and, despite Jordan Staal putting the Penguins ahead, 1-0, Philadelphia constantly had an answer to Pittsburgh’s offensive output. The Flyers eventually won, 8-5, beating the Penguins in nearly every facet of the game.
“I don’t think we are frustrated. We’re not happy about the situation,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “They are close games. We’re making mistakes and they make us pay every time. I think right now we need to just play one shift at a time, play one period at a time and making sure we win those shifts, win those periods. We’ll go from there. There is no plan of trying to get a goal back or anything like that. We just have to focus on (the) next shift every time.”
A large factor in the Penguins’ woes has been special teams play. All told, Philadelphia has nine special teams goals — three shorthanded and six with the man-advantage.
That, Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma says, has to stop to provide any chance of coming back in this series.
“We’ve given up nine special-teams goals,” he said. “That’s been a big factor in games. In Games 2 and 3 it’s really (been) the factor in the game. Both the shorthanded goals and the power-play goals we’ve given up have been a real factor. In Game 1, we (lost) the special teams (battle, too).”
Bylsma added that special teams struggles are in stark contrast to what the Penguins were able to do in the regular season, which has contributed to three losses to start this series.
“Minus the one empty-netter, the other ones have been four in the offensive zone for Philly, three on the rush and two from turnovers in the neutral zone. Those are the breakdown of those goals. But the real factor, and I think it’s different from what we saw before, was special teams situations, both our penalty kill and the shorthanded goals. ”
Which brings to mind the whole 60-minute effort idea, which was echoed throughout the locker room Tuesday.
With consistent effort for 60 minutes comes fewer penalties and, typically, a better chance to win than was the case in Games 1, 2 and 3. Crosby said Pittsburgh will “leave it all out there” tonight in Game 4.
“Everyone has got their own reasons for why we’re losing and their own opinions,” he said. “They’re entitled to those. But we know in this room we still have yet to put a game together. That’s no one’s fault but our own. There’s nothing we can do about that now. The only opportunity that we have is to make it better next game. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”