Commentary

Talk of adversity after one loss? Nope, not here

Updated: May 4, 2008, 11:54 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- Here were some of the leads we were contemplating for this story to set up Sunday's fifth game between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

More from Pens-Rangers

• For those not consumed with tracking down the adversity angle Saturday, there was also Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin's journey to the penalty box at the end of Game 4 to beat a little more.

"You don't think about it. It's just a gut feeling," Crosby said about coming to the aid of linemate Marian Hossa, who was rocked by a Daniel Girardi check late in Game 4. "You have to go by what you feel. You are just reacting. You aren't worried about what anyone thinks. I was the closest to Hossa. I don't apologize for it. [Given the same circumstances] I wouldn't change a thing."

• Forward Maxime Talbot, who missed Game 4 with a foot injury courtesy of a blocked shot in Game 3, skated on his own Saturday. He will be evaluated again Sunday to determine whether he can go.

• Penguins coach Michel Therrien was asked how Crosby plays when the game becomes physical and he gets irritated. "I got only one answer -- you'll see tomorrow," Therrien said.

-- Scott Burnside

"The Pittsburgh Penguins -- a team consumed by adversity."

Or ...

"A pall of adversity has fallen over the once sunny skies above the Pittsburgh Penguins."

Or ...

"The Pittsburgh Penguins have been consumed by a sinkhole of adversity."

Or ...

OK, that's enough.

Here's the problem. A team fresh off a seven-game winning streak to start the playoffs isn't exactly the poster team for facing adversity, even if that streak was broken in its past outing in New York in Game 4.

Despite the perception from outside the Penguins' locker room that perhaps things have changed with Thursday's 3-0 defeat at the hands of a desperate Rangers team, Pittsburgh is light years from adversity.

At least until late Sunday afternoon, when the Penguins will have a second chance to eliminate the Rangers, this is a hiccup, a stubbed toe. Nothing more, nothing less. In spite of the attempts from the Rangers' camp to suggest the Penguins might somehow be reeling or they've gone off the rails, or the feeling from fans and media that somehow this one loss now represents a challenge worthy of Sisyphus, Pittsburgh is still very much in control of its playoff destiny.

Brooks Orpik suggested local fans may worry too much about stuff like this. He noted the Penguins were winless in New York during the regular season but split their two playoff games there last week. Orpik added that the Pens enjoyed their day off Friday, which allowed for them to reflect on the loss. Now they're looking at Game 5 as a clean slate and a chance to move forward again.

"Well, we lost a game, and we want to come back and straighten that out," Pens defenseman Hal Gill said. "We're in a good position in this series. I don't know if this is adversity; we just want to come back and play our game."

Gill pointed out that of the two teams in this series, it's probably the Rangers who have been facing more adversity.

"They were down 3-0. They came back and won a game," Gill said. "If it was adversity, that was it, being down and losing some guys. They came out, and to their credit, they played a hard game. Hopefully, we can squash their adversity, so to speak."

Actually, what seemed in much greater evidence Saturday at the Penguins' suburban practice rink wasn't adversity, but perspective.

"Obviously in the playoffs, every loss brings you that much closer to elimination," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "It's the playoffs, so you're scared to lose. But no one's going to lose their cool here."

Nothing wrong with that.

Watching the San Jose Sharks win back-to-back elimination games to cut the Dallas Stars' series lead to 3-2 was a sobering reminder of what can happen. You might be able to argue that Dallas now faces adversity, but the Penguins aren't there yet.

Perhaps what has skewed the view of the Penguins' loss has been the fact they've been so good thus far. They have the best record in the playoffs. (Pittsburgh is 7-1; Detroit is 8-2.) They have won close games and wide-open affairs.

There was talk of the playoff record for games won from the start of the playoff year (nine, by the 1985 Edmonton Oilers), and the fact that the last time a team went 7-0 out of the gate was in 1994, when the Rangers did so en route to a Stanley Cup.

And then, it was over; and, all of a sudden, with an extra off-day between games, the notion that this somehow qualified as adversity became palpable. If you won all of your games, it would make things simpler. But no one goes 16-0 in the playoffs. It's never happened and likely never will.

"You see what you're made of when you lose," Dupuis said. "Obviously, we're in control up 3-1 and playing at home. We just can't let that get away from us."

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.