Penguins lack desperation, drop Game 5 to Rangers
During the second intermission of Game 5, defenseman Kris Letang and other Penguins were shown video of a critical two-man advantage from the previous period.
“We had too many complicated plays,” Letang said. “When we could have shot, we tried to pass.
“But at the end of the day, that was the whole game. We should have put it in the garbage (areas). We didn't. We need to.”
The Penguins still need to eliminate the New York Rangers, who extended the second-round playoff series with a 5-1 victory Friday at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, though they must win Sunday night at Madison Square Garden to avoid a Game 7 at home.
They have dropped the only two of those — Games 7s played in Pittsburgh — during the Sidney Crosby era. They also are 4-7 overall and 1-5 at home with a chance to finish a series since winning the Stanley Cup five years ago.
The Penguins are 13-13 at home in the playoffs since leaving Mellon Arena, where they went 21-10 from 2007-10.
“I don't have a good answer for that,” coach Dan Bylsma said, after taking a deep breath and shaking his head.
There was something positive for the Penguins in Game 5. Center Evgeni Malkin continued to look like the dominating force he was as MVP of that Cup run.
Malkin scored his sixth goal and is at 13 points through 11 playoff games.
However, his fellow franchise center, Crosby, has failed to score a goal in 10 of these postseason contests — and the Penguins' recently dragging power play has not helped their captain break out of a funk.
The Penguins are 1 for 15 against the Rangers, including 0 for 4 in Game 5.
Bylsma is an adamant believer that only the next one counts when it comes to power plays and penalty kills, but he conceded the Penguins wasted a golden opportunity on their two-man advantage at the end of the second period.
His counterpart, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, hated the calls against two of his players. Center Derick Brassard was penalized for slashing with two minutes and 26 seconds remaining, and 37 seconds later defenseman Dan Girardi was assessed a holding foul.
The Penguins sent onto the ice Letang, Malkin, Crosby and wingers Chris Kunitz and Jussi Jokinen — a 5-on-3 unit deployed often in the regular season and one including four Winter Olympians and, in Malkin and Jokinen, two players tied for the postseason goal lead.
Any of those players was capable of cutting into a three-goal deficit with one shot. Not one placed a shot on net.
“It was a huge opportunity for us,” Bylsma said. “I just don't think we've attacked and shot enough on our power play, and the 5-on-3 … we needed to get one there and maybe even a second one.”
The Rangers lead all teams with 207 blocked shots, even though official scorers for Game 5 credited them with only 11, a number Rangers players thought was low.
The Rangers have blocked 81 shots in the series, and defenseman Marc Staal noted the “mayhem and chaos” they created on the penalty kill in Game 5.
The Penguins have attempted 22 power-play shots in the series.
There is something to the Rangers' high number of blocks and the Penguins' low total for power-play shots, and Crosby offered a recipe for Game 6.
“We've just got to attack a little more,” he said. “When you're moving your feet, you're able to creating a little bit more shooting lane wise. If you're standing still, it's an easy shot to block and a little bit easier to read.
“If we're attacking more, moving our feet and either taking those shots or making plays, we give ourselves a better idea of what we have there available.”
Available, still, is the opportunity to win Sunday and get a likely minimum of four days to prepare for the Eastern Conference final.
That is all within the Penguins power, but they need power-play improvement.
“You want to read their pressure,” Letang said of the Rangers. “They're not overly aggressive. They want to block shots, so they stay in the lane. So you try to have some give-and-gos and stay out of those lanes so you can shoot it.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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