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Pens Try to Get Back on Track in Boston

June 5, 2013

Back in 2011, the Pittsburgh Penguins coughed up a 3-1 first-round series lead to the Tampa Bay Lightning, exiting the playoffs with three straight losses to the Bolts. The injury-riddled Penguins managed to score just six goals in their four home games that spring, with three of those six tallies coming in a 3-0 Game 1 win.


As much as the Pens struggled to score on home ice in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, they never had a two-game run of home contests in which they scored a total of just one goal, as they’ve had in the first two games of their current Eastern Conference final series with the Boston Bruins.


To find the last time the Pens were held to just one goal in a span of two consecutive home games, you’ve got to go back to the early days of the 2006-07 regular season. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was still a teenager then, and Ray Shero was starting his first season as the team’s general manager. Michel Therrien was in his first full season as the Penguins’ head coach, having taken over from Eddie Olczyk early in the previous season.


After downing the Philadelphia Flyers by a 4-0 count on Oct. 5, 2006 in the Pens’ home and season-opening game, Pittsburgh suffered a 2-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings (on Oct. 7) and a 5-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes (on Oct. 14) in its next two home games.


Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury are the only members of the Pens still remaining from the last time the Pens scored a total of one goal in a span of two consecutive home games nearly seven years ago. Malkin didn’t dress for either of those contests; he was nursing a shoulder ailment.


Tonight, the Pens have to figure out a way to score on the road and a way to score against Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask. Down 2-0 in the series, the Pens have been outscored by a combined 9-1 in the first two games of the series.


Pittsburgh needs to make something good happen early in Wednesday’s Game 3, which is exactly what the Bruins did in Game 2. Boston’s Brad Marchand scored a breakaway goal on Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun just 28 seconds into Game 2, and the Bruins never trailed on their way to a 6-1 victory. The B’s drove Vokoun to the bench late in the first period of Game 2, but he’ll start Game 3 in Boston.


The inability to take and hold a lead is part of the root of Pittsburgh’s problems. The Penguins played a total of 11 games in the first two rounds of the postseason against the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators. The Pens trailed for a grand total of 74 minutes and 23 seconds in those 11 games.


In two games of the conference final series against the Bruins, the Penguins have trailed for 111 minutes and 9 seconds of the 120 minutes of hockey that has been played. The Pens faced very little adversity in the first two rounds against lesser foes, now they’re facing a lot of adversity against a more formidable foe. And they’re not dealing with it very well.


Out west, the Kings climbed back in their Western Conference final series with Chicago with a 3-1 win over the Hawks on Tuesday night. Los Angeles continues to do what it does well, play at Staples Center. The Kings have won 15 straight home games now, and they’ve surrendered a grand total of nine goals in eight home playoff games.


Chicago and Los Angeles will be back at it on Thursday night in Los Angeles, and if the Kings can keep up their home ice dominance – they haven’t lost at home since a 1-0 loss to the Canucks on March 23 – they’ll even the series and shrink it to a best-of-three.


If Los Angeles is to become the first team in 15 years to author consecutive Cup titles, it will need to win at least one game on the road in this series. The home team won each of the seven games in the Kings’ second-round set with the San Jose Sharks, and that’s been the case through the first three games of the conference final with the Hawks as well.


The Blackhawks were 18-3-3 on home ice during the regular season, and they’re 8-1 at United Center during the postseason. Los Angeles is 1-7 on the road this spring, and it has lost each of its last five road games. Six of the Kings’ seven road losses have come by an identical 2-1 score. The Kings’ lone road win in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs was a 3-2 overtime victory over the Blues in Game 5 of the opening round on May 8.


Kings defenseman Slava Voynov is certainly making is presence felt in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. Voynov tallied his fifth goal of the postseason in Tuesday’s Game 3 win over the Hawks. Aside from breaking his stick on the shot and still managing to score, the tally was noteworthy for a couple of other reasons.


Voynov’s goal was his fifth of the postseason, establishing a franchise benchmark for goals by a Los Angeles defenseman in a single postseason. Including his busted-twig tally on Tuesday night, four of Voynov’s five goals this spring have been game-winners.


According to Elias Sports Bureau, Voynov becomes just the fourth defenseman in NHL history to score four game-winning goals in a single Stanley Cup playoff year. Each of the previous three played for teams that won the Cup that year, and each of the previous three are also members of the Hockey Hall of Fame: Paul Coffey (Edmonton, 1985), Al MacInnis (Calgary, 1989) and Brian Leetch (New York Rangers, 1994).