Time to stick a fork in the Penguins?
Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency
|Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury lets in a a goal by Philadelphia Flyers Sean Couturier during the third period of Game 2 in their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania April 13, 2012. (REUTERS/Jason Cohn)
The Pittsburgh Penguins are done.
Stick a fork in them and into a bowl of free chili at Shale’s Cafe, across from the Consol Energy Center, which is free whenever the Penguins score five goals.
The Penguins did that Friday night, but unfortunately the hated Philadelphia Flyers scored eight and now the Penguins trail their Eastern Conference opening round playoff series 2-0 as the scene shifts to Philly. Game 3 is Sunday afternoon (3 p.m.) and Game 4 is Wednesday.
That the Penguins are done was the feeling among the clientele and staff at Shale’s. The proprietor, Jimmy, with a crushed cigarette between his fingers as he pulled beers behind the bar, was asked if the chili was still free despite the fact the Penguins had scored five goals in a loss.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “yes.”
Not that it seemed the fans had much of an appetite after the loss, which was largely self-inflicted by the Penguins, who couldn’t find the handle on 3-1, 4-3 and 5-4 leads. They gave up two short-handed goals, which were huge momentum shifters.
The only thing longer than the faces of Penguins fans right now are the lineups at the bridges.
When the home team is down 2-0 to the hated Flyers, it’s always handy in a city with three rivers to have lots of bridges from which to jump, which seems to be the preferred way to cope with the Penguins’ precarious position in their opening round series.
“How are you today?” I asked the doorman of my hotel.
“Not very good after that game last night,” he said. “I hate losing, but I really hate losing to Philadelphia. Anybody but the Flyers.”
So, the feeling here seems to be the Penguins won’t be back, which, I guess, is a somewhat understandable sentiment given the way the Penguins have lost the first two games and given the opposition is the Flyers, who have shown they have the offensive depth and skill to take advantage of the Penguins’ mistakes.
But Penguins fans don’t have to look too deeply into the past to find an example of a team losing the first two games of a series and coming back to win. Last spring, the Boston Bruins lost the first two games on home ice to the Montreal Canadiens - the hated Habs - and came back to win the next two in Montreal to even the series (remember the Ference Finger?), including an overtime win in Game 4 to avoid going down 3-1.
It took the Bruins overtime in Game 7 to get past the Canadiens, but they did it and then they swept the Flyers in the second round. The B’s wound up beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference final - and needed seven to make most of the hockey world happy to be denying the Vancouver Canucks the Stanley Cup.
So, there you go.
Now, if the Penguins are going to get back in this series, they are going to have to eliminate the crippling mistakes they’ve made over the first two games, like the defensive zone turnovers committed by the likes of centre Jordan Staal - supposedly a stout defensive player - and defenceman Ben Lovejoy. Seventeen seconds after the Penguins had taken a 5-4 lead early in the third, Lovejoy tried to pass the puck through Flyers rookie Sean Couturier, who knocked it down and scored.
After Staal turned it over with a weak clear up the middle, ex-Penguin Jaromir Jagr scored the winner.
Now the Penguins face having to win in Philly, a place where they’ve actually had some success, a place which Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said brings out the best in the Penguins.
They better hope so.
“We’ll see the true face of our team,” said Penguins defenceman Kris Letang. “We’ll see if guys have character. We’ll prove a lot.”