OTTAWA -- In theory, these are the moments when experience counts, when the combined years of ups and downs and playoff battles won and lost help forge a protective covering that allows misfortune to fall, well, like water off a duck’s back.
That’s the theory, of course.
We’ll find out how the Pittsburgh Penguins deal with the fact they allowed a shorthanded tying goal with 28.6 seconds left in regulation in Game 3 and then went on to lose in double overtime to affect them as they move forward in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Ottawa Senators.
"I think everyone’s disappointed," Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik admitted Monday as the Penguins took a day away from the rink. "That was probably the best we’ve played in the playoffs for 59½ minutes, and [we] kind of gave it away at the end. I think everyone’s still a little disappointed today."
Game 4 won’t be played until Wednesday, as the Penguins and Senators enjoy the second extra day off in this series. Orpik figured this extra day would be nice for a team that blew a chance to take a stranglehold 3-0 series lead on Sunday night but couldn’t close the deal in spite of a star-studded, battle-tested lineup.
“I think two days off are probably good for us physically and mentally,” Orpik said. “I think we’ve played well for three games and carried the play for the most part for three games. I think we’ll learn from it and move on pretty quickly."
The veteran defenseman, who was part of a Penguins squad that advanced to two straight Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009 -- they won the Stanley Cup on the return trip -- believes that a less-experienced team might have more trouble getting beyond such a disappointing loss.
“I think with a younger team you might be a little more fragile, maybe tiptoe into the next game," he said, "where I think a veteran team, as disappointed as you are giving it away the way we did, I think you learn from it and I think you look more at how we got all the way 'til the 30-second mark -- how well we played there -- and just try to piece together what went right for us."
Teammate Brenden Morrow agreed that despite the outcome -- Colin Greening gave the Senators their first victory in the series, scoring off a rebound 7:39 into the second overtime period -- the Penguins have a lot to be enthusiastic about heading into Game 4.
“I think 5-on-5, without a doubt, that was our best 60 minutes, 59 minutes,” said Morrow, who came over from Dallas at the trade deadline. “I think that’s been something this team’s been good at, is kind of (turning) the page and wiping it clean and starting fresh in that next game."
Head coach Dan Bylsma talked about the tying goal by Daniel Alfredsson, and how the team didn’t manage the puck as well as they would have liked -- especially given that they were on the power play, with Erik Karlsson in the box for slashing. They were also trying to execute a line change when the Senators found a seam and Alfredsson tipped home a great Milan Michalek pass to tie the game and send it to overtime.
“You’re looking at being up 3-0 (in the series), and the Senators get back into the game and the series by getting that win. That’s the story,” Bylsma said. “I thought that was our best road game in the playoffs for 90 minutes of hockey."
It wouldn’t be a shock if Bylsma alters his lineup slightly for Game 4, although it’s not known if Joe Vitale, an energy forward who drew into the lineup in Game 5 of the opening round and has been effective in a limited role, will be available. He could not play in Game 3 and was replaced by Tanner Glass.
It’s possible veteran Jussi Jokinen, a healthy scratch since Game 5 of the first round, could find his way back onto the ice, especially given his ability to take faceoffs on the left side of the ice.
“He’s a guy who’s played big games,” Bylsma said. “He’s a skill guy he’s done real good things for us.”