If the continuing ability of the Rangers to rally around St. Louis remains a compelling storyline, the lines of questioning for the Penguins postgame were fairly predictable and will continue to be so until Tuesday night.
Chief among them: What is wrong with Sidney Crosby?
The Penguins captain struggled to generate much that was positive in Game 5, registering just one shot and showing his frustration on several occasions, especially at the end of the second period during a melee at the horn, when he was assessed a cross-checking penalty. He was held without a point for the second straight game and has just a goal and an assist through the six games in this series; Crosby bristled when asked where he felt his effectiveness was at.
"I don't know. I think I'd always like to generate more. Try and compete and generate stuff out there but I'll leave that to you to decide," he said. "It's a matter of taking advantage of your chances and capitalizing. Trying to go to the right areas and find ways to create. But sometimes it's easier than others but ultimately you've got to find a way to be successful."
Still, there were so many players about whom the same questions could be asked, it seems a little unfair to single out the Penguin captain.
James Neal looks lost, even though he was credited with seven shots to lead all players Sunday, and one wonders if the switch away from longtime center Evgeni Malkin, who has played extensively with Crosby and Chris Kunitz, is having a detrimental effect on Neal's effectiveness. He has a goal and two assists in this series and just four points in 12 postseason games.
Kunitz, who got in the way of what would have been a sure goal by Crosby during a 5-on-3 in Game 5, was likewise AWOL in Game 6. He too has just one goal in this series.
We have seen Fleury play at an exceptional level in this series, pitching back-to-back shutouts during the three-game winning streak, but he was beaten by an ordinary Carl Hagelin backhand to make the score 2-0 just 6:25 into the first period. And then he could not get his glove on a loose puck in front of his crease late in the second period, allowing Derick Brassard to restore the two-goal lead after the Pens scored their first and only goal when a harmless shot bounced in off Ranger defenseman Kevin Klein.
Can all of these players be better? Of course. We have seen it with our very own eyes not so many days ago. But do they have the will? Because that's what it has come to, no? A questioning of this team's mindset.
Head coach Dan Bylsma was asked if he needs more from Crosby, and even before his answer came off his lips, you knew instinctively what it would be.
"Right now, we need everything from everybody. We need everyone's best," Bylsma said. "We need everyone's best for Game 7. We haven't been there, maybe, at all times in the last few games but we have to be there for Game 7."
He's right, of course. If the Penguins win Tuesday, all of this, these two botched elimination games, will quickly become a memory. If they lose, it will provide an ugly backdrop for an offseason of hard questions and even harder answers about the makeup of the team and what needs to be changed.
Veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi was asked about the need to keep winning to keep the core of this team together.