If any one player is emblematic of how the Penguins roller coaster of a first-round series has gone, it's Lee Stempniak.
In the first overtime period of Game 2 Saturday, Stempniak had a chance off a rebound to score a would-be game-trying goal but failed to get a clean shot off. The Blue Jackets scored in the second overtime period to claim a 4-3 win.
Monday, with his team trailing 3-2, Stempniak ripped a wrister by Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky's left shoulder on the near side from the right wing. In between those extremes, Stempniak has worked on the team's first line and the third line. At today's morning skate, he worked on the first line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
Recently, Stempniak talked about his experiences in the series thus far:
You expressed regret on not scoring a goal in overtime of Game 2 off a rebound. What did it feel like to score the game-tying goal in Game 3 in contrast?
"It feels good to finally score in the playoffs. It was my first career goal and to score a goal in a key situation is good. I guess you sort of look at [Game 2] and wish you would have scored it. But I sort of moved on from that already. You have to move on from game to game. It definitely felt great to get that goal but I don’t feel like it’s vindication for what happen in Game 2."
Describe the the non-goal in Game 2.
"It was a good shot from [Sidney Crosby] and the rebound the rebound came to me. Just a bang-bang play. I just tried to get it over his pad to the far side and I think he got his blocker on."
And the goal in Game 3?
"It was a nice pass from Chris [Kunitz]. He made a nice pass to put it through. It was sort of a short two-on-one with Kris Letang on the left side. I looked to see if there was a pass there and I looked him off. I was able to shot short side."
You've played in the playoffs before but not on a team with championship expectations like the Penguins. How new is this for you?
"I’ve only been in the playoffs two times. It’s definitely a different set of expectations being in Pittsburgh. It’s fun to have those expectations and be a team that’s looked at to compete for the Stanley Cup. We’re a team that believes it can win the Stanley Cup. You really enjoy those expectations and the challenge that comes with it. It’s been fun. It’s been a pretty crazy series so far with changes and giving up leads. It’s fun. I can’t wait for Game 4."
You've played on the first and third lines in his series thus far. How much of an adjustment is there in going between lines during games?
"Probably a little bit less than you would think. Obviously with Sid and Chris, they look to score I think off the rush more. They’re great players in the offensive zone on the forecheck, especially Sid. He’s able to beat guys in the corners and behind the net using his strength and skating. Playing, with Brandon [Sutter], …. We’re going to be good defensively, get pucks out and really try to generate offense from working on the cycles, the forecheck and getting bodies to the net. I think the differences in those situations in the playoffs are sort of minimized. Whatever line you’re one, first line to fourth line, everyone is looking to get pucks to net, bodies to the net and score goals that way. I think it’s less of an adjustment than most people think."
(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)