PITTSBURGH — Even NHL superstar-turned-team owner Mario Lemieux was amazed at how cruel the home rink was to the Penguins Wednesday night.
Asked casually as he walked through the Pittsburgh dressing room if he had ever seen a bounce off the end boards like that which gave Chris Kelly an open net for Ottawa’s third goal, Lemieux replied: “It was weird, eh?”
It was, and it also gave the Senators a very important two-goal lead, padding they would need in taking a 5-4 victory over the Penguins and a 1-0 series lead.
“There’s not a lot of difference in games sometimes come playoff hockey,” said Sidney Crosby. “It’s pretty tight and it’s a matter of executing. They got a few chances they put in and they executed on the power play.
“At the end of the day, that bounce ends up being the extra goal.”
Crosby admitted the Penguins “need to be better, for sure,” when the teams reconvene at Mellon Arena for Game 2 Friday.
And they need to learn how to dig their way out of two-goal holes if they are going to defend their title.
“There are times when you’re going to be down in the playoffs, and you’re playing pretty good hockey still,” he said. “That’s the way it is. It’s close hockey, and there’s not a lot of difference that decides games.
“We’re going to be faced being down by two goals at some point and we’re going to have to come back.
“I’m pretty sure if we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to deal with that. It’s not a habit we want to get into, but it’s something we’re going to have to face if we want to keep moving here.”
If you read into that the Penguins aren’t overly concerned about the Game 1 loss, you’re a good reader.
“They were very good in the neutral zone,” coach Dan Bylsma said of the Senators.
“They made it very difficult, and their forwards were coming back hard and they did a great job at that, creating very little time and space, creating some turnovers, and they were able to turn that back and put pucks in behind our defence. They were able to get opportunities, create opportunities because of that, and then capitalize on them.
“You have to give them a lot of credit, and we have to do a better job of executing and going north with the puck, getting that puck in behind their defence. We didn’t do that as well as we can.”