Pens need to forget blowout, focus on Game 6

(REUTERS/Mike Carlson)

(REUTERS/Mike Carlson)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:49 PM ET

Forget and focus.

For the Pittsburgh Penguins, it doesn't get much simpler than that for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday night.

Forget they had their hockey pants handed to them in an 8-2 Tampa victory in Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon. And focus on winning on the road, which might not be a hurdle, as the Penguins have won in each of their previous two visits to the St. Pete Times Forum in the best-of-seven series.

Come out with a win in Game 6 and the Penguins, without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, advance to the second round.

"It's tough to say why, but we just have to come out and play the way we can and for some reason, we've done that in Tampa and played them tough in their own rink," Game 4 overtime hero James Neal told reporters after practice Sunday. "On the road, you're focused on only one thing and sometimes you get away from that at home."

The six-goal loss represented the Penguins' worst home playoff setback. Twice they had lost by five goals -- April 25, 1992 against the Washington Capitals (7-2) and May 19, 2001 versus the New Jersey Devils (5-0). And the game marked the fifth time since Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien as coach that Pittsburgh has lost on home ice when trying to close out a series.

On Bylsma's watch, the Penguins have not won in that situation.

"You can't let that linger," forward Michael Rupp said of the lopsided loss. "You don't want any momentum to be carried by them or want to be down in the dumps on our end. I think it's an easy one to throw in the garbage. The two- or three-overtime losses are sometimes a little harder to swallow."

Of course, it's too easy to say that just by bearing down the Penguins will win Monday.

They're going to have to be a lot sharper around goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, as the Lightning forwards had more than enough time to score at will in Game 5. Many of Tampa's goals came from close quarters, and the Pittsburgh defencemen will have to demonstrate that they can squeeze the oncoming forwards out of harm's way.

And now that Steven Stamkos has proven he can bring more than just a pulse, it won't be easy.

"They're a team that likes to go to the paint and crash there with three guys," Bylsma said. "One of the things that we've tried to adjust to is make ourselves and our D-zone coverage a little more aware of is their pucks back to the point and the shot getting there as quickly as possible. It's something we're aware of."

Few teams have had to topple adversity as much as the 2010-11 Penguins, who finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with 106 points despite the prolonged absences of Crosby (concussion) and Malkin (knee). No less than nine Penguins who were in the lineup for Game 5 were also part of the Stanley Cup champions in 2009, so these guys know a thing or two about breaking down obstacles.

What's more, Fleury usually puts bad performances aside pretty quickly. A couple of years ago, Fleury was shelled in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final against the Detroit Red Wings, and then was the backbone in a pair of 2-1 Penguins victories.

"The longer you're around, the more you know you can't change yesterday," said forward Chris Kunitz, won raised the Cup in 2009 and also in '07 with the Anaheim Ducks. "You've got to go out and prove yourself the next day. It takes a little bit of leadership, letting the guys know who weren't here that it's possible. You don't want to let a team get on a roll, so we've got to go play our best game in the playoffs."

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


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