Pens Hoping Early Exit Motivates, Recharges

Pens quest for third Stanley Cup falls short

Josh Rowntree
May 08, 2018 - 12:13 am

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Following Monday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Washington, the Penguins took time to reflect on an abrupt ending to their quest to win a third straight Stanley Cup.

“I think sometimes we all learn more from our failures than we do from our successes,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think this group knows how hard it is to win in the playoffs. All the teams are really good and there’s a fine line between winning a losing.”

Pittsburgh’s top talent is expected to return. Riley Sheahan, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and Dominik Simon are forwards who will be restricted free agents. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak will be as well. Center Carter Rowney is the team’s only unrestricted free agent.

“Our group is the same,” center Evgeni Malkin said. “It’s a sad day for us, but we just look forward. A little more rest this summer and work hard and come back next year. Be better next year.”

Over the past three seasons, the Penguins have played 61 games in the postseason. A pair of deep runs into June, plus a pair of physical series against Philadelphia and then Washington, may have taken a toll.

“Last two years were unbelievable,” Malkin added. “Three years (in a row) is so hard. Maybe we were a little bit tired too. But it’s time to change and move forward.”

"It definitely stings," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "You understand how difficult it is and what a fine line it is between winning and losing. Everybody did what they could, unfortunately we weren't able to get it done."

While the loss will undoubtedly sit with the Penguins for some time, there is reason to positively reflect on a three-year run that the NHL has not seen the likes of in two decades.

“We haven’t tasted this in a long time,” Sullivan said. “That’s a credit to the group of players in that dressing room because they’ve been a hungry group and they’ve accomplished so much.”

Kuhnhackl, who hit a post in overtime that would have pushed the series to a seventh game, said that the standards are lofty from within.

“Stakes are high in this organization,” he said. “We’re disappointed with the early exit, but I’m sure with this team, in this locker room, it’s not going to take long for us to get back at it next year.”

Goaltender Matt Murray, who dealt with multiple injuries and the sudden death of his father during the season, was asked if he was proud of his team.

“Always,” he responded. “This group is so resilient. We showed them that right to the very end. Nothing but pride in here.” 

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