Pens will pay price for another failure


PITTSBURGH -- This was once the dressing room of champions.

Now the Pittsburgh Penguins' room is just another locker room full of guys simply not good enough to get it done.

You can talk expectations until you are blue in the face -- New York Rangers blue as it were -- but the simple fact of the matter is that these Pittsburgh Penguins, in spite of their star power and pedigree, simply aren't very good when it matters most.

And when you think about it, this has been true for a long time.

In the world of hockey, memories are short and repeated failures are generally dealt with swiftly and harshly. The Penguins' 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers Tuesday night was the fifth straight playoff loss to a lower seeded team since Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup run in 2009. And this series against the Rangers marked the second time in four years the Penguins blew a 3-1 series lead.

After three dominating performances against the Rangers that evoked memories of the team's run to back-to-back Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009, the Penguins scored three goals. One per game. They never held a lead after Game 4.

It was hard to tell whether it was shock or resignation that permeated the air in Pittsburgh's locker room.

When the media piled in, captain Sidney Crosby was already at his locker stall. As he always is.

In seconds he was buried -- as he always is -- by a phalanx of cameras and recorders and reporters asking him questions for which, in many ways, he had no answers.

It's hard to reconcile the Crosby that we have seen score a gold medal winner in 2010 and earn the reputation as the game's best player with the player who looked so ordinary, out of sync this spring.

He insisted Tuesday that he was healthy, disproving the theory that some mystery ailment was at the heart of him scoring just once in 13 postseason games.

On Tuesday when they needed someone to step forward and reverse the tide, Crosby had two shots on goal. He and winger Chris Kunitz were late back-checking on the first Rangers goal by fourth-liner Brian Boyle, who has actually out-scored Crosby by a goal thus far in the postseason.

"Obviously I would have liked to score more. I'd love to tear it up every series, but [that's] not always the case. It doesn't make it any easier I'll tell you that," Crosby said.

"It's tough losing as it is but when you're not able to contribute as much as you'd like, it's even tougher."

He, like many players in the Penguins locker room, was asked about the potential for change in the wake of this collapse.

"I don't know. The game just finished. I think there's always questions and, when expectations are high and you don't win, I think that's normal," Crosby said.

Game 7 held significant meaning for both teams in terms of offseason change and, in the case of the Penguins, their legacy. And while it is a cliché, the Rangers' best players were their best on Tuesday.

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