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Sports

Penguins vow changes amid playoff slump

In search of a spark, coach will adjust lines

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and star center Sidney Crosby are looking for some offense.

brian snyder/reuters

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and star center Sidney Crosby are looking for some offense.

PITTSBURGH — The mood was understandably subdued in the Penguins dressing room after practice Tuesday afternoon.

Being down, two games to none, in the Eastern Conference finals will do that to you.

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After being shut out for the first time in 97 games in the opener at Consol Energy Center, the Penguins vowed to bring a stronger arsenal and more resolve for Game 2. Instead, they submitted a stinker in front of the home crowd and now head to Boston in dire shape.

The high-flying offense, so lauded throughout the season, has scored one goal in the two contests.

Coach Dan Bylsma said he knows who is going to be his starting goaltender for Game 3 Wednesday night at TD Garden, but he wasn’t sharing the information. It certainly seems that Tomas Vokoun is the better option, even though he was hung out to dry by his teammates in Game 2 before being replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury.

The fact is, there are so many troubling aspects to the way the Penguins have played so far, the goaltending isn’t close to the top of the list.

Like so many of his teammates, scoring phenom Sidney Crosby looked lost in Game 2, a victim of the Bruins’ stifling defense.

“It was just one of those nights,’’ said Crosby, who had four giveaways, including one that led directly to the Bruins’ first goal just 28 seconds in. “I didn’t do anything [different], didn’t change anything.

“I had the same mentality going in, and I just felt like every time I got [possession], the puck was bouncing or I ended up giving it away.

“It’s not a good feeling, but at the end of the day, those things kind of happen in this game. We got behind and tried to force things and ended up making it worse. It’s not always easy to explain, but you’ve got to make sure you don’t let it happen again.’’

Bylsma promised lineup alterations in hopes of shaking his team out of its doldrums.

“There are going to be some changes to our lineup and some of our combinations,’’ said Bylsma. “Very early on [Monday], we got behind by a goal and then the second goal [was scored] right after the penalty kill.

“We got off our game plan, we got off individual games by trying to get back a goal or goals by one play, one instance, one situation. And it got us off a path and we deviated from the game plan.

“We have to, as a group and as lines and as [defensive] pairings, we have to get back to playing our game.’’

That includes playing better defense in front of whoever is in goal, not giving the puck away in the neutral zone, and not allowing the Bruins to get behind the Penguins defense pretty much at will.

Bylsma said everyone must take a step back and do their own accounting of what has gone on in the series so far.

“I think we have to really take a good look at where we’re at individually and as a group and how we’re playing, what’s happening on the ice,’’ said Bylsma. “I think we did that.

“We also have to understand where we’ve got to get better, both individually and team and our mental focus and mind-set going into this Game 3.’’

Some teams have fallen behind, two games to none, and rallied to win the series. The Penguins did it in 1991 against the Bruins in the then-Wales Conference final. In more recent times, they had to battle back twice from deficits in 2009, the last time they won the Stanley Cup.

“We’ve had a history of getting down, 0-2, they’ve been on the road, so we’ve come back home for Game 3,’’ said Bylsma. “So it’s different in that regard.

“It’s a disappointing loss, it’s disappointing how we played. You certainly have to deal with what we need to do to get better, but we’ve got to focus on now going back into Boston, going on the road and winning Game 3 and getting the series to 2-1.’’

Asked how he deals with the forwards’ frustration at not scoring goals, given that they have been so used to being successful, Bylsma said it’s all about the mind-set.

“We don’t expect to go into the game and score four goals,’’ he said. “We don’t think that’s going to happen. In the Ottawa series, you can look back and say, ‘[Goals] came easy,’ with five and six-plus goals in games, but we didn’t anticipate that to be the case.

“I don’t think we’re frustrated by the fact that we haven’t scored as much as it’s [the Bruins] getting up, and especially in Game 2 getting leads and us playing from behind.

“In doing so, I think we deviated and got frustrated by not being on the same page and trying to get those goals back with one play or in one situation.

“We have to get back to the mind-set that’s been successful for our team — defending, keeping the puck out of our net, and playing games [in ways] we’ve been very good at all year long.

“Right now, we’re not liking the picture.”

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.
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