To rebound from crushing Game 5 loss, Penguins need only look at what the Lightning did last year

PITTSBURGH -- During the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers were on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Rangers needed to win Game 6 on the road to force a Game 7 on their home ice. With a berth to the Stanley Cup finals on the line, the Lightning imploded -- and the Rangers exploded for seven goals, running Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop from the game in a 7-3 win. And suddenly, with the series headed back to New York for Game 7, the Lightning's chances of advancing seemed bleak.

But Tampa Bay -- and Bishop -- rebounded to beat the Rangers 2-0 in Game 7. Bishop recorded a shutout and the Lightning advanced to the Stanley Cup finals to face the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Fast-forward to the 2016 Eastern Conference finals.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are playing the role of the Rangers. After failing to gain control of this series with a 4-3 overtime loss at home to the Lightning in Game 5, the Penguins need to accomplish the same exact thing the Rangers did last spring -- win Game 6 at Amalie Arena to regain home-ice advantage for Game 7.

It's simple: Pittsburgh's season will end if it loses Tuesday. If the Penguins win, they will be back in their building, one win shy of advancing to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since they won a championship in 2009.

So what do they need to do to get there?

It was a bit surprising that Penguins coach Mike Sullivan decided to replace rookie netminder Matt Murray, who had been the go-to guy this postseason, with veteran Marc-Andre Fleury for Game 5. Other than his third-period action in Game 4, Fleury hadn't played since suffering a concussion on March 31. The rust was evident, and he admitted as much after the game.

"A little bit," he said. "It wasn't the best I've felt in a game, but still I've been practicing a lot. I should be better."

Sullivan wouldn't assess Fleury's performance after the game; the coach said he wanted a little more time to digest it. Will he decide to go back to Murray for Game 6? It's a tough decision, especially given Murray's otherwise stellar performance this postseason. Fleury has won a Cup and knows what it takes to win when a series is on the line.

"We're still confident we have a team that can beat them," Fleury said. "The game's over. It's the best out of seven, so we've got to try to get one."

Pittsburgh did win Game 3 4-2 in Tampa, so the Penguins are comfortable they can win in that building.

"We believe in each other as a group. We believe in all four lines," Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said after Game 5. "Anybody can go out every single night and help this team win. We've seen it done for months on end now. So we've got to go out there and have the right mindset of bringing that energy, that passion, and having fun playing -- and let the game take care of itself."

"This is the first time we've been in this position," Sullivan said. "I know that our guys will respond the right way. They have for four months, five now. So any time your back's against the wall, you have to heighten the urgency even that much more, heighten the intensity that much more.

"We're all disappointed we didn't get the result tonight, but we can't change it. So all we've got to do is we've got to gather ourselves, we've got to go back at it and try to win a game.

"This group has done a terrific job all year of just staying in the moment and not dwelling on the past, not getting ahead of itself and just trying to focus on that one game in hand, and that's what we're going to have to do."

Perhaps Sullivan and his staff will watch Game 6 of the 2015 Eastern Conference finals on their plane ride to Tampa.