PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins need a victory in Ottawa tonight for two big reasons:
1. To reclaim control of their Stanley Cup playoff series with a 3-1 lead.
2. To get coach Dan Bylsma off the hook for some incredibly bad strategy.
Game 3 was wrapped up nicely for the Penguins when the Senators took a penalty that gave Pittsburgh a power play for the remainder of the third period.
What could be better than a 1-0 lead and a man advantage in the last 30 seconds? Just keep the puck in the offensive zone, play a hockey version of the prevent defense and let the clock wind down.
Had they done that, they would have been up 3-0 in the series, the Senators would have been cooked, and the Penguins would be looking at an early resolution that would give them time off before the conference final.
You know what happened: The Senators scored a shorthanded goal, then went on to win in overtime. Ottawa still trails 2-1 in games, but the Senators have a pulse.
It didn't have to be that way. If Bylsma had the right personnel on the ice, and the right plan, Game 3 would have gone to the Penguins, and they'd have four chances to end the series.
Instead, they face the possibility that Ottawa will win tonight and make this a best-of-three series where anything can happen.
Bylsma has been given resources other coaches don't have. He not only has Sidney Crosby, he has Evgeni Malkin. Tomas Vokoun has proven to be a solid alternative to No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins have a future Hall of Fame player in Jarome Iginla. They have proven scorers in James Neal and Chris Kunitz. They have a shutdown defensive corps.
So why are they allowing a shorthanded goal at the worst possible time?
That's on then players who were on the ice, of course, but it's also on Bylsma for not having a better idea at crunch time.
If they can win tonight, his prevailing emotion should be a sense of relief.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have begun Organized Team Activities (OTA), three weeks of practice that will lead to mini-camp.
OTAs are busy work in a lot of years. Not this time. Following an 8-8 season and some major losses of veterans, the Steelers have plenty of work. This is the time to get things started.
New players have to be learn the playbook, former back-ups have to get ready to step up, and new coaches have to learn their personnel.
The biggest thing the Steelers can do with these sessions is fix the attitude problems that helped send the team to such a lousy finish.
Mike Tomlin and his staff have important work to do.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org