PITTSBURGH — It’s always said that the fourth win in a playoff series is the hardest one to get.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are finding out right now just how hard it can be after missing yet another opportunity to close out the Washington Capitals on Monday night, dropping a 5-2 decision that was not anywhere near as close as the final score would indicate.
That drubbing at the hands of the Presidents’ Trophy winners came just two days after the Capitals erased a third-period deficit by scoring three third period goals to keep the series going.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan pointed out the obvious after Monday’s game by saying his team “was not good enough,” while promising his team will be “determined” for Game 7 on Wednesday night in Washington.
“This league is going to test your resilience,” said Sullivan.
“It is going to test your resolve. You have to find ways to re-energize. We can’t let this one affect us. It wasn’t the way we want to play. I think all of our guys understand that. We are certainly not going to dwell on it, I can promise you that. We’re gonna go back to work tomorrow, we are going to reset our mindset, and we are going to be a determined group for Game 7.”
They are going to need to be more than determined if they are going to finish the job and avoid blowing a 3-1 series lead. They are simply going to have to find a level they have not yet found against the Capitals.
The Capitals have carried the play for most of the series and only seem to be getting stronger the longer the series goes. Monday’s game was by far their most dominant performance of the playoffs as they completely suffocated the Penguins’ offensive attack, limiting them to just 18 shots on goals for the game.
The Penguins didn’t reach double-digits in shots until the third period.
Sullivan talked about his team’s inability to dictate the terms of the game.
“We didn’t dictate the terms out there like we’ve talked about. We have got to do a better job holding on to pucks, we have to spend time in the offensive zone, we need a cooperative effort, we have got to stay together. As a result we are not dictating the terms consistently enough out there. I think the shot clock is an indication of that,” he said.
“We did it at times but, it wasn’t consistent enough. It’s something we have been talking about the whole series. As I said to our players after the game, there is a reason it’s a seven game series, it is the first team to win four games. Nothing has changed. We still have to win a hockey game. Our challenge is a little more difficult, but I know this group is capable of it.”