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Penguins notebook: 'Battle-tested' group remains confident facing elimination game with Capitals

Jonathan Bombulie
| Sunday, May 6, 2018, 5:54 p.m.
The Penguins' coach Mike Sullivan instructs Riley Sheahan on the bench during their game against the Capitals inside of PPG Paints Arena on May 3, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' coach Mike Sullivan instructs Riley Sheahan on the bench during their game against the Capitals inside of PPG Paints Arena on May 3, 2018.

The Penguins didn't become back-to-back Stanley Cup champions by spending a lot of time facing elimination.

When they have, however, they have fared well.

Over the past three seasons, the Penguins are 4-0 when a loss would send them to an early offseason. They won Game 7s against Washington, Ottawa and Tampa Bay and also won Game 6 against the Lightning in the 2016 Eastern Conference finals.

Over that same time span, Washington Capitals are 3-3 when they have a chance to eliminate an opponent, as they will in Game 6 of the Metropolitan Division finals Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.

“I think it comes down to character and the people we have in our dressing room,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We have the utmost confidence in the group that we have. They're a battle-tested group, and I know our guys are looking forward to the opportunity to play tomorrow night.”

Set a reminder

The Penguins didn't practice Sunday. They didn't have a long video session, either.

All they needed to improve upon the performance that left them with a 6-3 loss in Game 5, Sullivan said, was a reminder of how they have to play to be successful.

“There will be a little bit of video, but not very much,” Sullivan said. “The reality is we've played these guys five times in a row here. I'm not sure as we go on here that we're going to learn much more than we have in the five games that we've played them. We tend to use a little bit less video as the series goes on.

“Certainly, we'll address some of the areas where we think we can improve and get better that will help us in Game 6. But our players are well aware of the type of game that we play when we have success and why we have success. We just have to remember that going into Game 6.”

In agreement

Generally speaking, the Penguins thought they were the better team Saturday night but lost to a Capitals squad that was more opportunistic.

With a day to digest what happened, Washington coach Barry Trotz basically agreed with that notion when he met with reporters Sunday afternoon.

“We need to be better,” Trotz said. “I think we were fortunate that our goaltender was really good and made some timely saves and they didn't convert on a couple of their chances. We did. At the end of the day, we found a way to win. That's playoff hockey. Sometimes, in the past, I've been on the other side where you go, ‘We felt like we played really good and didn't get the result.' ”

Injury report

Trotz said second-line center Nicklas Backstrom, who didn't play the last 13 minutes of Game 5 due to an upper-body injury, was scheduled to make the trip to Pittsburgh. Trotz said he expects Backstrom to play, but “we'll see where he is tomorrow.”

Trotz said he thinks defenseman John Carlson “will be fine” after taking a hit from Jake Guentzel late in Saturday's game.

In his postgame comments, Trotz called the hit a head shot and lobbied for the NHL to review it for possible supplemental discipline.

On Sunday, the league's department of player safety declined to do so.

“I'm OK with what the league decides. I've said that all along,” Trotz said. “When I first looked at it, I didn't understand how his helmet could pop almost right off his head and he's dazed, and if you ask Carly, he'll tell you that's where he felt the contact first. The league looks at it. Whatever judgment they made, we're fine with that. I just wanted the league to look at it.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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