Isles even series, put pressure on Penguins
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Brooks Orpik thinks these Penguins are different.
“But I guess we'll find out if we are or not,” Orpik said after a 6-4 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum raised the ghosts of playoff failures' past.
The Penguins are even, 2-2, in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series. They are trying to avoid a fourth straight loss to a lower-seeded opponent in the playoffs.
Three consecutive goals by the Islanders in the third period Tuesday erased a Penguins lead in Game 4 and stole any momentum they had in a series that is starting to look strikingly similar to one that rattled the organization last spring.
The Penguins have allowed 14 goals in the past three games after a textbook defensive performance helped goalie Marc-Andre Fleury post a shutout in Game 1.
Coach Dan Bylsma did not commit to starting Fleury in Game 5 on Thursday at Consol Energy Center.
Orpik refused to commit to comparisons between this series and the one the Penguins lost to Philadelphia last postseason. The Penguins allowed 30 goals in six games to the Flyers.
They failed at managing the puck, defending the front of the crease, staying out of the penalty box and holding leads.
“It feels a lot like the crap that was going on last year,” Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “The games are out of our control, crazy bounces are happening, we're giving up goals.
“We've proven over the course of the season we can play better than that, but we've got to dig deep to find it.”
The Penguins twice erased Islanders' leads within a minute in Game 4, but they also twice blew one-goal leads.
They lost only once this season when leading in the third period, but captain Mark Streit and centers John Tavares and Casey Cizikas scored for the Islanders after right winger Pascal Dupuis' fourth playoff goal staked the Penguins to a 4-3 lead 41 seconds in.
The Penguins were charged with 12 giveaways, by 10 players.
“We're just turning pucks over,” Orpik said. “I turned it over on their game-winner, and 10 seconds later it's in the net.”
Tavares scored that goal near the midpoint of the third.
The Penguins have 33 giveaways in the series — only 20 fewer than against the Flyers last postseason. They have taken 23 penalties against the Islanders, compared to 42 against the Flyers.
Right winger James Neal sat at his stall wearing an expression of disbelief after Game 4. Center Evgeni Malkin was by then receiving treatment on a left shoulder that could require offseason surgery.
Several players screamed at members of the media who blocked the only exit into the hallway, where franchise icon and majority co-owner Mario Lemieux, with his wife Nathalie, were dour while leaning against a wall.
Jarome Iginla, a future Hall-of-Fame winger brought in before the trade deadline to score goals and provide leadership, according to general manager Ray Shero, tried to spin the Penguins' predicament. He said they wanted to reclaim home-ice advantage by winning one of two games at Nassau Coliseum, and he correctly noted the Penguins had won Game 3.
“We never thought this was going to be easy,” Iginla said.
Clearly, it won't be.
“Obviously we don't want to give up as many goals as we are,” Crosby said. “But we had our fair share of chances.”
Bylsma said the Penguins need not “be looking for more chances.”
“It's more about limiting their opportunities from the defensive side,” Bylsma said.
Just like against the Flyers, Niskanen said.
Still, Orpik, after his first game of the series, said the past will have no bearing on how this situation will play out.
“It's a different group of guys, a different series,” Orpik said. “I don't let that stuff hang over my head. You learn from it, you move in, but I don't think you go back to it.”