Race2Four: OT marathons often turn tide
Epic overtime games have a funny way of altering a series.
Petr Nedved beat the Capitals in the fourth overtime in 1996, and the Penguins — down, 2-1, entering that game — rode that momentum to a six-game victory.
Likewise, the Flyers were down, 2-1, before facing the Penguins in Game 4 of their second-round series in 2000. Philadelphia never looked back after Keith Primeau's goal in the fifth overtime, steamrolling the Penguins in the next two games.
"That kind of momentum can't hurt a team," Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips said.
So, should the Penguins be concerned• History says yes, but captain Sidney Crosby didn't seem troubled by the psychological ramifications.
"It's a loss," he said. "We could have lost, 10-1. We could have lost, 2-1, in regulation. How you lose doesn't matter."
While the losing team failed to win a game after the Nedved and Primeau goals, the Penguins do have something to build on. Detroit overcame Petr Sykora's triple-overtime goal in Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.
"You know what?" Crosby said. "If you play the right way — and we feel we did, and we're confident in our game — we'll get rewarded for it."
CROSBY ADDS TO HIS POINT TOTAL
As if Sidney Crosby's assault on the Senators wasn't thorough enough in the first five games, he was awarded yet another point Friday. Crosby's final line from Game 5 against Ottawa now reads one goal and two assists. He was credited with an assist on Kris Letang's first-period power-play goal. Evgeni Malkin sent a pass to Bill Guerin, who fanned on a shot. The puck found Letang, who scored. It was ruled that Guerin did not touch the puck, giving Crosby the second assist. The Penguins captain has five goals and nine assists for 14 points, good for the postseason lead. Crosby's 14 points are a career-high for one series and are threatening to shatter Mario Lemieux's franchise record of 17 against Washington in 1992. The Penguins won that series in seven games, but a shoulder injury kept Lemieux from playing in the first two games.
While Crosby is flourishing, fellow center Jordan Staal is struggling. Staal led the Penguins with a plus-19 rating during the regular season but has been quiet in the playoffs. He has scored once — off a horrible Pascal Leclaire rebound late in Game 4 — but is a surprising minus-5 for the series.
Leopold likely out
Injured defenseman Jordan Leopold is not expected to play Saturday night. It remains unknown whether right wing Tyler Kennedy will play.
If the Penguins lose Game 6, the series would shift back to Mellon Arena for Game 7 on Tuesday. That matchup would be the final game in Mellon Arena history if the Penguins lose.
"When you're in the third OT and you're seeing some of the hits that are being thrown, that says a lot about teams wanting to play physical and wanting to wear the other team down. This is going Game 6 here, so those (hits) add up after a while. That's why you play tough. Sometimes you play a long series, and that wears on guys." — Penguins captain Sidney Crosby on the series' physical play.
"It's still not an easy situation that we're in. What we need to do now is use the energy from our home crowd just like Pittsburgh does. We're very happy to be playing at home, that's for sure." — Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips on the Senators needing two more wins to avoid elimination.
"Sid's just been incredible. We know how great he is. Hopefully he has worn himself out and doesn't have any goals left in him. I don't know. He's just doing everything so well right now." — Phillips on Crosby's play.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
The other guy wearing No. 71 in this series isn't so bad, either. Nick Foligno, the 22-year-old Senators wing, was arguably the best player on the ice in Ottawa's 4-3 win in triple overtime Thursday in Game 5. Foligno seemed to get stronger as the contest dragged on. He appeared to have the winner early in the first overtime but was ruled to have kicked the puck past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
HE SAID IT: Ottawa center Matt Cullen
We were strong in those overtime periods, and you could really see Nick playing well. He kept getting chance after chance. He was great."
The Penguins have employed the three forwards who produced the most points in their first four forays into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The top four in that category:
Player: Games/Points — Age
Mario Lemieux: 60/115 — 27
Kevin Stevens: 68/87 — 28
Sidney Crosby: 54/77 — 22
Wayne Gretzky: 3 3⁄74 — 22
— By Josh Yohe, Rob Rossi and Kevin Gorman