Pens coach draws on personal experience of trailing series 3-1 and winning


Mike Johnston doesn’t need to be told a team can come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Back in 2003, when he was an associate coach with the Canucks, he lived it.

“I remember clearly when I was in Vancouver,” the Penguins coach recalled today, “we were in a series with St. Louis, and we went into St. Louis and won Game 5. And all of a sudden St. Louis had to pack their bags and come back to Vancouver. And they really didn’t want to. They wanted to have a couple of extra days to get ready for the next series.

“A few [Blues] got sick, got the flu, we won Game 6, won Game 7. The series can change so fast. And a lot of our players have been through that. Those are the experiences you need to draw on.”

And what Johnston didn’t mention about 2003 was the Canucks blowing a 3-1 series lead, to Minnesota, in the next round.

Of course, it was the Penguins who led the Rangers 3-1 last year, then proceeded to lose three straight.

“Several of the players have been through the reversal last year,” said Johnston. “They were leading on New York 3-1, and the whole series changed.

“This game going into New York, we win (and) the series changes completely, and it heads in our favor for sure. Just because of the psychological edge, when they’re at home, and we win that game and bring it back here, that’s a whole different series. We need one game, and that’s it.”

The Penguins may be in a deep hole trailing 3-1, but it’s not like they’ve been blown out so far. All four games have been decided by one goal, with last night’s contest going to overtime before Kevin Hayes scored for the Rangers.

“If you look at the way the whole series has gone, it’s just a fine line,” Johnston said afterwards.

Game 5 goes tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET (on NBCSN).