The Penguins are down two games to zero in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Islanders, but the sun still came up this morning. While a 2-0 hole is a massive deficit, we are still talking about a team who has enough talent to break out on the scoresheet at any time.
From a historical perspective, in this era of the Penguins with Crosby and Malkin, this is now the sixth time in thirty playoff series’ that the team has started things off by losing both of the first two games.
The young, upstart Penguins roll their way through the Eastern Conference Final and run into the buzzsaw Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. Not only do the Penguins lose the first two games of the series at Joe Louis Arena, they are shut out and kept off of the scoreboard, and beaten by a collective score of 7-0.
The Penguins would not go away quietly, however, with the series shifting back to Pittsburgh, avoiding falling behind 3-0 was quite necessary, and the Penguins did so with a 3-2 win at Mellon Arena.
After winning Game 3 to get one game back in the series, they would drop Game 4 at home, before winning a marathon OT game in Detroit for Game 5, and ultimately losing the series at home in Game 6, where Detroit would lift the Stanley Cup.
Game 3 Result - 3-2 Penguins win
Series Result - Red Wings win in 6 games.
A year later, the Penguins found themselves in trouble again after starting a series on the road. They defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games in the opening round and then took on the Washington Capitals in what would be the first iteration of this matchup with several more to come down the road.
The Capitals took a stranglehold on the series with a 3-2 win in Game 1 and a 4-3 win in Game 2, one that would capture the eyes of the world, featuring dueling hat tricks from Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.
Much like the 2008 Final, the series would shift to Pittsburgh, with the Penguins desperate to get on the board in the series. Kris Letang would do so for the team with a deflected shot off of the post that beat Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
The Penguins would win the next two games as well, giving them a series lead, ultimately before needing a trip back to Washington to win in Game 7, one that wasn’t close.
Game 3 Result - 3-2 Penguins win (OT)
Series Result - Penguins win in 7 games.
Flash forward to the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins are back in it. The Red Wings are back in it. Same storylines, except Marian Hossa switched sides this time and is playing for Detroit. The Red Wings would again win their first two games at home, grabbing a 2-0 series lead with two 3-1 wins. The Penguins would head back to Mellon Arena in the same boat as a year prior, looking to even the score.
In a game that was tied 2-2 in the third period,d Sergei Gonchar would put the Penguins ahead with the game-winning goal in Game 3, while Game 4 featured a team effort to come from 2-1 behind in the game to win 4-2.
The Red Wings and Penguins would both hold serve at home in Game 5 and Game 6, respectively, and we all know what happened on the road at Joe Louis Arena in Game 7.
Game 3 Result - 4-2 Penguins win.
Series Result - Penguins win in 7 games.
The series that was a little different and a little goofy. The Battle of Pennsylvania — this instance of a 2-0 hole being one that came despite the Penguins having home ice in the series, and hosting the first two games. A 4-3 overtime loss (Danny Briere was offsides) and an 8-5 beating put the Penguins down in a hole. They would hit the road for Game 3 hoping to rally — and they did not, losing the game by a score of 8-4, and falling behind 3-0 in the series.
With their backs against the wall, they would attempt to claw back by scoring 10 goals in Game 4 and win a tight one in Game 5, before ultimately dropping the series in Game 6.
Game 3 result - 8-5 loss
Series result - Flyers win in 6 games.
Heading into the Eastern Conference Final with the Bruins, the Penguins had gone all-in at the trade deadline and had just rolled through the Ottawa Senators in 5 games and were feeling good about themselves. Then the series started. Again despite having home-ice advantage and hosting the first two games of the series, things started out with a 3-0 shutout and a 6-1 loss.
The Penguins would head to Boston and TD Garden looking to even things up.....and they wouldn’t win a game and were swept out of the playoffs.
Scoring two total goals across four games still feels like one of the more helpless instances of watching this team play.
Game 3 Result - 2-1 Loss (2OT)
Series Result - Bruins win in 4 games.
In the previous five instances of starting out a series down 2-0, three of those instances are exact matches of the current scenario the Penguins are in — having lost the first two on the road. If we’re looking for hope and a silver lining here, it’s that twice we have seen with our own eyes that the team has rallied and won Games 3 and 4 to fight their way back into a series.
It’s going to take a tremendous effort and when trailing 2-0, you have little room for error, but we will find out tomorrow afternoon how that effort is going to begin.