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Prisuta: Penguins exude confidence

| Monday, May 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Penguins didn't play a perfect game against the Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but they played well enough to win.

That they lost, 3-2, on Saturday night at the Verizon Center is a detail they're aware of but not tempted to over-analyze.

The start was precisely what the Penguins were after, and will be again tonight in Game 2.

The goaltending, despite Marc-Andre Fleury's understandable disappointment over the ones that got away, was exactly what the Penguins needed when they temporarily lost their game during a second-period lull.

And there were opportunities aplenty at the other end throughout that resulted in shots fired at Caps rookie Simeon Varlamov and shots that could have and should have been.

Practice on Sunday, thus, was loose and fast.

The mood in the room was upbeat, no moaning or complaining or scratching of heads.

And the confidence of the players and coaches remained in tact, despite the one-game deficit they found themselves forced to confront.

"There are times when you lose and you feel like, 'Geez, we gotta go back and make some huge adjustments here,'" captain Sidney Crosby said. "That's not the case with the last game. We felt like we did some really good things, like we only got away from our game for a little bit in the second period.

"If we look at anything, we want to make sure our power play is better. But for the most part, I thought we did a lot of good things."

The power play failing again — that's four straight games without a goal — is becoming such a regular occurrence that it might be best to begin perceiving it as something the Penguins are simply going to have to work around.

If the Steelers could win a Super Bowl with their offensive line being what it was -- and they did — there's no reason the Penguins can't survive a second-round series despite a power play that has come to defy description in its impotence.

If the Penguins continue to play as well as they did 5-on-5 throughout most of Game 1, they'll win the series provided their oh-fer power play can avoid getting scored upon.

The other emphasis during Sunday's practice involved opponents' drives into the Penguins' end.

The Caps scored goals on two such occasions in Game 1.

The problem wasn't a failure to hustle back on the Pens' part.

The problem was making sure the Caps were properly accounted for in the defensive end.

That's a tweak, not cause for attempting to reinvent the back-checking wheel.

Other than that, the Pens will look for more of the same, attempt to get a few more shots on net and hope Varlamov doesn't get as lucky the next time Crosby's facing an open cage.

"If we play that type of hockey for seven games, we'll be satisfied with the result," forward Max Talbot said.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik was even more direct.

"We're confident if we keep playing the same way we'll win this series," Orpik said. "I wouldn't say it's 100 percent, but it's a pretty good chance."

Good enough that it's a chance these Penguins are more than willing to take.

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