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Monday afternoon optimism; looking back on history of Game 5's

A look at where the Pittsburgh Penguins have sat historically when they win, and lose Game 5's of NHL playoff series that were tied 2-2 after four games. They may be down, but history says the Pens aren't dead yet.

Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports

What happened to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 or 2001 or even 2014 doesn't really apply to tomorrow night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

At this point you can find a million pixels all over the internet about the many problems, controversies and issues surrounding the team. So we'll take a different route and to try and freshen things up let's look at the situation at hand, instead of barking up the same tree yet again.

I did a little research about the Penguins from the Mario Lemieux era on, to see how they fared after losing Game 5 of a series that was tied 2-2. Historically across the league, 79.6% of the time the winner of Game 5 wins the series. The Pens small sample is much better than that, so as a distraction let's look back on memory lane.

When the Penguins lose Game 5

Year Opponent Result
1991 NJ Devils W7
1998 Montreal L6
1999 NJ Devils W7
2000 Philly L6
2001 Buffalo W7
2009 Detroit W7
2016 Tampa ?

The Penguins are 4-2 in series all-time when losing Game 5, quite a strong record. To make matters even better, the Pens are 4-0 when they are able to force a Game 7 after going into a 2-3 hole. Some of the franchise's best memories- Jaromir Jagr playing through an injured groin in '99, Darius Kasparaitis's OT winner past Dominik Hasek, the Stanley Cup in '09 - have been born of being in a 2-3 hole.

Despite a great record, it's important to note that almost all of these games have featured an overtime down the stretch too. The margin between wins and losses for the playoffs is so narrow thin this time of year.

When the Penguins win Game 5

It won't happen this year, but what happens win Pittsburgh is in a series tied 2-2 and then wins Game 5?

Year Opponent Result
1993 NY Islanders :(
1996 Florida L7
2001 Washington W6
2009 Washington W7
2010 Montreal L7
2013 NY Islanders W6
2014 Columbus W6

The Pens are only 4-3 (a worse record than winning Game 5 historically) from the time of Mario on. And again, many of these games featured overtimes and could have broken either way. Perhaps weirdly enough, Pittsburgh is only 3-4 when up 3-games-to-2 (for series that were tied 2-2), they haven't had success putting teams away.


The moral of the story? Teams that are tied 2-2 in the playoffs are usually very close to even, with small differences in the edge between winning games and losing. Interestingly, the Penguins small sample has bucked the league trends in showing the winners of Game 5 aren't as automatic as it is across the league. Which shows another takeaway; this series is far from over.

Now, of course, what happened in the past won't be influencing the future, however it is very interesting from an outsiders perspective to see just how different from league trends (both as winners and losers) that the Penguins have been.