Commentary

Pens eager to move on from Game 5

Getting off to a quick start at MSG will be key to series for Pittsburgh

Updated: May 11, 2014, 11:53 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- It was a line that in some ways crystalized the entire playoff process.

"The winners write the stories."

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was answering a question about whether his team needed depth scoring to finish off the New York Rangers in the wake of a disappointing 5-1 loss in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series that narrowed the series count to 3-2 in favor of the Penguins.

He noted that it wasn't whether the Penguins needed a goal from third-line winger Beau Bennett or fourth-line speedster Brian Gibbons.

"We need to win hockey games," Bylsma said after an optional skate Saturday at the team's suburban practice facility shortly before they jetted to New York in advance of Game 6 Sunday. "The team wins hockey games, the way the team plays. And we need more and better from everybody."

The winning provides the storylines, and for much of the last couple of weeks, those storylines have been easy to identify.

The return to form of Marc-Andre Fleury in goal.

The emergence of Evgeni Malkin as the most dangerous player in the playoffs.

The steadying of Kris Letang's game.

The ongoing greatness of Sidney Crosby, even in the face of a goal-scoring drought.

Friday night in Pittsburgh, coming off one of their worst games of the postseason and in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Rangers rewrote the script of this series. They rewrote it by playing with more intensity, more desperation. Throw in the emotion of Martin St. Louis' return just a day after the death of his mother, and the Rangers seized the moment in an emphatic and emotional manner.

The Penguins?

"Right from the drop of the puck, the Rangers were a desperate team," Bylsma said. "Every play mattered. Every play was important, and that's the way they played. I don't want to say we weren't ready to play that game. But we had some unforced errors, and they took full opportunity of them."

Can the Rangers harness that emotion and replicate that effort, especially early in Game 6, when the tone of the game and perhaps the series itself will be set?

They managed just 15 shots in their last appearance at Madison Square Garden, so we know that both extremes are possible.

And this is a Rangers team that has not managed to win consecutive games in any one series yet this spring. Are they due?

Certainly, the Penguins will be looking to rediscover their puck control game that was in evidence during their three-game winning streak in this series and at the end of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

[+] EnlargeRangers
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsThe Pens are hoping to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard, especially in the early going.

"We know it's not going to be easy," Bylsma said. "We know it's not going to be something they hand to you and punch your ticket and you move on to the next opportunity. You have to earn it. You can be upset and disappointed in our game and our execution ... but we also have to move on."

The Penguins, who struggled to find their playoff equilibrium early in the first round against Columbus, were guilty of poor starts in Game 1 and Game 5 against the Rangers, both games they ended up losing.

That will have to change Sunday, veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi said.

"It's always about the next game, as long as you can learn what you did before," Scuderi said. "I think anyone wants to learn from their own mistakes. I thought we had some bad starts in the Columbus series, and you thought we would have learned our lesson and not had to do it again, but at times it does happen. It happened to us in Game 5 and if we want to rebound with a good game in Game 6, it has to start with a good opening faceoff for us and a good opening period."

By the end of the first period of Game 5, the Penguins gave up 17 Rangers shots and were down 2-0.

"With the experience that we have, you have to realize you're not going to have great periods all the time," Scuderi said. "The Rangers came out like a team whose season was on the brink. We knew we'd have to weather a little bit of a storm. Unfortunately, they got two goals out of it, and it's hard to play when you're down that fast.

"If you're going to be a good team in the playoffs, you've got to learn how to rebound. If experience has taught me anything, I think we're going to have a good response."

If Scuderi is right, the storylines will once again become self-evident.

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