PITTSBURGH — Let’s face it, the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t always been known for keeping their composure. In fact, prior to this playoff run they’re on, they’d developed quite the reputation for losing their cool in pressure situations.
But nobody could say the Penguins got knocked off their game tonight. Even after giving up a late equalizer to the San Jose Sharks, they stuck with it. The result was a 2-1 overtime victory and a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
“I think that’s been our mindset since Christmas,” said veteran winger Patrick Hornqvist. “We’ve been through so much this team. That’s one of the things we’ve always talked about. We can’t get too high, we can’t get too low. We can’t control some things out there. You can control your work ethic and your attitude, and that’s what we do.”
“It’s the playoffs. I mean, it’s going to be tight,” added captain Sidney Crosby. “I think we’ve been through a lot of different situations, throughout the season, throughout the playoffs. We believe in one another. We’ve just got to keep working, keep trying to play our game, and if we do that, we trust we’ll get the result we want.”
A more fragile team might’ve started expecting the worst when Justin Braun scored with less than five minutes remaining. Lose in overtime, after all, and the Sharks would’ve stolen home-ice advantage.
“If we would have lost that game, it would have been — not devastating — but it would have been tough,” admitted forward Carl Hagelin.
Make no mistake, it’s still going to be tough. The Sharks did not play their best here in Pittsburgh, but they’re 7-2 at SAP Center in these playoffs, and that crowd of theirs can be energizing.
“Going to San Jose, they have a hell of a home record,” Hornqvist said. “It’s only going to be tougher out there. We’re playing good right now, but I still think we need to get it up another level to win there.”
Crosby also knows this series is far from over. Actually, he knows from experience.
“Their desperation level is going to be high,” he said. “I’ve been to two finals and been down pretty quickly 0-2.”
And in 2009, the Penguins fought back from that deficit to beat the Red Wings in seven, giving Crosby his first and only Stanley Cup ring.
In other words, the Penguins’ composure isn’t done being tested.
“One of the things I’ve really liked about our team, and this is something that I think we’ve evolved over the last five months or so, but our guys just play,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.
“That’s what we told them on the bench when it went in the net. You know what? San Jose is a good team. They’re going to get some scoring chances. We liked how our team was playing. We felt like we controlled the majority of the play. We just have to keep playing.”