Penguins far from satisfied after Game 2
Taking a 2-0 series lead for the first time since the 2009 Eastern Conference final would have seemed like a rewarding experience for the Penguins.
But it wasn't. Not this team, and not with the mistakes that were made in Friday's 4-3 victory against the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins were somewhat surly after this one. They didn't just want to win, but rather, feel like they should have buried the Senators.
“It probably shouldn't have been that close of a game but it was because of the Grade-A scoring opportunities we gave them,” defenseman Douglas Murray said. “We need to be better.”
In fact, Murray's words describe the overall mood in the locker room following this contest.
Although the Penguins outshot Ottawa, 42-22, and were utterly dominant at times — captain Sidney Crosby had something to do with that — there were lapses in the game that irritated them well after the contest was over.
“That shot total honestly might be a little misleading,” center Joe Vitale said. “If you're talking about quality scoring chances, we may have been a little bit better than them. But just a little bit.”
“It wasn't our best game,” goalie Tomas Vokoun added. “But a win is a win.”
While the Penguins did many marvelous things on this night — it was their seventh playoff game with at least four goals, Crosby recorded a hat trick and the Penguins' work in the offensive zone was terrific — they also committed gaffes that have been evident in past playoff failures.
• Ottawa, while attempting to make a comeback in the second period, enjoyed two breakaway opportunities against Vokoun. Both were denied.
• Center Evgeni Malkin took another careless postseason penalty, this one in the offensive zone, in the first period. It led to an Ottawa goal.
• Defenseman Brooks Orpik was guilty of a boarding penalty early in the third period that gave Ottawa a chance to even the game on the power play.
The Penguins were actually much better in the final 15 minutes of the game, finally slowing down the game and making a number of prudent decisions with the puck.
What took place in the locker room between the second and third periods may have been the reason for the Penguins' suddenly responsible play.
Three of the Penguins' leaders — Crosby, right wing Jarome Iginla and left wing Chris Kunitz — addressed the team during the second intermission. The message was clear: Reverting to pond hockey, taking careless penalties and making casual passes instead of playing proper playoff hockey was no longer acceptable.
After a brief lapse early in the third — Ottawa pulled within a goal when Vokoun was trapped outside of his net — the Penguins responded to the words from their leaders.
“We finally tightened up in the last 10 minutes,” Murray said. “But we still have to get rid of the breakdowns. Look at Boston and Toronto. People believe in miracles this time of year. You've got to stay on people.”
The Penguins feel like they are on the verge of doing something special. But cleaning up the mistakes — they are almost exclusively born of unneeded aggression, not laziness — is mandatory for them to become a truly special team.
“I'm happy with a lot of the things we did,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “But honestly, this still wasn't good enough.”