New home hasn't been kind to Penguins in NHL's postseason
Kris Letang did not sleep much early Thursday morning, haunted by a weird bounce of the puck the night before on home ice that he said contributed to an overtime goal by the Flyers` Jakub Voracek.
The goal staked Philadelphia to a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
The Penguins still have yet to win a game of significance against the Flyers in Pittsburgh since the Igloo`s doors were padlocked.
Game 2 is Friday night at Consol Energy Center, but a blown three-goal lead Wednesday loomed in a dressing room where players tried to say all the right things.
'I`m still mad about it,' Letang said after a brisk practice during which the Penguins focused on north-south passing and tinkered with a power play that went 0 for 3.
Some statistical trends would be maddening to the Penguins if they paid them any attention, which players such as center Jordan Staal mostly said they would not.
However, these cannot be ignored because they clarify a big problem for the Penguins in this playoff installment of the Commonwealth Cold War:
> > They are 4-8 in home Stanley Cup playoff games since they raised that silver chalice in 2009.
> > They have lost five of six meaningful games against the Flyers over the last four months.
> > They have lost three games against the Flyers in which they had multiple-goal leads.
'It`s a small sample size, so I`m not sure you can take much from it,' forward Craig Adams said of the home playoff struggles over the past three postseasons.
Adams noted the Penguins had a 'pretty good record at home during the season' (29-10-2), and forward Pascal Dupuis pointed to their success in the next game over that span when losing at home (4-2).
Translation: Dropping Game 2 might not doom the Penguins, who count among regulars 11 players from the 2009 squad that twice rallied from 2-0 series deficits and four times that postseason closed out opponents on the road.
'We`ve got guys in here that aren`t going to panic,' Dupuis said. 'This group has been pretty good over the years at handling adversity, and (the Game 1 loss) was just one game in the series.'
Their fundamental problems while playing with the lead range from careless decision-making with the puck and poor positioning — cheating, several players conceded — without it. They have witnessed these mental lapses cost them three games against the Flyers in the past month, but the errors remain uncorrected.
The Flyers, who finished the regular season with the NHL`s sixth-best record, might have something to do with that, Staal said.
'They`re a good team,' he said. 'The momentum swings a lot throughout games and series. We have to be prepared for that and understand that we have to try and change it back to our side.'
That has yet to happen consistently against the Flyers. Perhaps most striking in the aftermath of Game 1 is that coach Dan Bylsma deliberately chose not to provide the word for his opinion of his playoff-tested team failing to seize momentum to start this series.
'I`m probably not going to give you one,' Bylsma said of that elusive word. 'It certainly isn`t a (lack) of understanding of how we need to play with that three-goal lead.'
The Penguins have lost four of six games against the Flyers in which they led dating to December. Those contests:
Date Site, Pens lead, Final
Dec. 29 Pittsburgh 1-0 L, 4-2
Feb. 18 Philadelphia 1-0 W, 6-4
March 18 Philadelphia 2-0 L, 3-2 (OT)
April 1 Pittsburgh 2-0 L, 6-4
April 7 Pittsburgh 1-0 W, 4-2
April 11 Pittsburgh 3-0 L, 4-3 (OT)