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Penguins pushing to sell playoff tickets

| Friday, April 17, 2015, 11:12 p.m.

NEW YORK — Once the darlings of Pittsburgh's sports scene, the Penguins find themselves scrambling not only for goals in the NHL playoffs but for enough paying customers to keep alive their sellout streak that stands at 375 hockey games.

A late-season slump kept the Penguins from earning a Stanley Cup playoff spot until the final day of the regular season, and that sluggish finish slowed playoff ticket sales.

About 500 tickets remain for Monday's Game 3 against the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center and nearly 1,000 for Game 4 on Wednesday, said Tom McMillan, Penguins vice president of communications.

“We still believe we're one of the strongest brands in the NHL and one of the strongest brands in sports, in one of the best markets in sports,” CEO and President David Morehouse said. “However, given the challenges this season, selling playoff tickets required a little more creativity.”

McMillan described the approach as more aggressive than in past years, and it included calling one-time ticket purchasers whose phone numbers are retained in the team's database.

In separate interviews, Morehouse and McMillan said they expect the Penguins' sellout streak to reach 376 games — regular season and playoffs — on Monday.

For years, the Penguins have sold out their playoff games before the end of the regular season and ran out of single-game tickets within hours of their going on sale.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told Trib Total Media that the Penguins had entered the final week of the regular season with 4,000 to 5,000 unsold tickets for Games 3 and 4. Morehouse and McMillan said that number was excessively high. McMillan said about 1,800 tickets were available from the Penguins entering that week.

The Penguins' struggles this season have impacted the market for ticket resales on websites such as SeatGeek.com and StubHub.com.

SeatGeek analyst Connor Gregoire said about 2,000 tickets for Games 3 and 4 purchased earlier by fans were available on his company's website, starting at $73.

While the number of tickets is not unusual, Gregoire said, the lower prices reflect a drastic difference from prices of Penguins playoff tickets from last year's opening-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gregoire said tickets on the secondary market for that series started at $123.

The $73 price tag on SeatGeek is more than 10 percent below the face value of $82.25, meaning it's cheaper to buy on the secondary market than from the team. Gregoire said SeatGeek had some lower-bowl seats for $104, compared with $150 face value, and $238 tickets for lower-bowl seats near center ice, compared with $269 face value.

The average price on the secondary market for Consol is $96, Gregoire said. In contrast, tickets to Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden are going for an average of $377, marking the largest disparity in any of the NHL playoff series, according to SeatGeek.

“It shows a lack of confidence (among Penguins fans) and lack of enthusiasm about the series,” Gregoire said. “Since last year, these two fan bases have gone in different directions. I think you see them on opposite ends of the spectrum now.”

Cameron Papp, a spokesman for StubHub, said Friday that there were about 1,500 listings for Game 3, which represents a 25 percent increase from the opening home game of last year's first-round series.

The lowest ticket price for Game 3 on Monday on StubHub, Papp said, was about $72, similar to SeatGeek.

“If the Penguins steal a game in New York, we expect to see much higher demand for Games 3 and 4 on StubHub,” Papp wrote in an email. “If you're a Penguins fan and think that's going to happen, I would recommend buying now.”

Staff writer Rob Rossi contributed. Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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