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Penguins players vow to be better in Game 5

| Friday, April 25, 2014, 6:27 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice together in the third period against the Blue Jackets in Game 4 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' James Neal promised the Penguins will be a 'new team' in Game 5 against the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps Dan Bylsma's message got through.

A day after Bylsma questioned his players' effort and passion in their first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series against Columbus, many of the team's stars — including captain Sidney Crosby and winger James Neal — offered no defense of their play.

In fact, they agreed with their coach.

“You're going to see a different team,” Neal vowed. “We have a chance here to redeem ourselves (Saturday) night, so that's what we'll do.

“Our battle level is going to be there. It's the Stanley Cup playoffs. We're going to come out ready to get going.”

The Penguins find themselves locked in a 2-2 tie in their best-of-seven series against the Blue Jackets. Game 5 is 7 p.m. Saturday.

Neal bemoaned that there is any question or concern about the Penguins' “battle level,” as Bylsma put it.

“For whatever reason, we haven't been hungry enough,” Crosby said after practice Friday at Southpointe.

Throughout the regular season, Crosby often brought up the need to “match the desperation level” of opponents who were fighting to stay in the playoff race. Meanwhile, the Penguins had the Metropolitan Division title all but wrapped up by the Olympic break.

“We have to be passionate about this time of year,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “It's the hardest time of year to win, but it's also the most rewarding and the most fun. If we play in the moment and play the way we can, we'll give ourselves a fantastic chance.

“I think it's clear we haven't done that yet.”

“It's hard for me to say that there's anyone in this room that isn't working as hard as they can,” forward Craig Adams said, “but at the same time, I agree with Dan that there's something more. Another level.”

The good news for the Penguins? There no longer is a need to manufacture desperation. Being two losses away from another early playoff exit already provides that.

“It's best-of-three right now,” Bylsma said. “And Game 5 is starting with our home-ice advantage. And that is where our team is at, and that is where our focus is at.”

Bylsma pointed to the final two periods of Game 3 as when the Penguins were at their most passionate, energetic and aggressive.

The Blue Jackets had scored twice in the opening minutes, and the Penguins had to be desperate if they wanted to rally.

“You're not going to be perfect every night, but we've been unhappy with the way it's gone the last two to three games,” center Brandon Sutter said. “We've had good moments in each of those games, but over 60 minutes we haven't been. We've just go to get that mentality back.

“It's been the difference so far, our work ethic. And we can battle harder and work harder.”

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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