In tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Penguins will worry as they are attempting to avoid what teams normally would be trying to achieve- a two-goal lead. In seven of eight first round playoff series, teams have squandered two-goal leads and inevitably lost the game. The series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets highlight this trend the most, as Games One through Four all had two-goal leads that were blown.
What is so dangerous in hockey about the two-goal lead? With a lead of two goals, most fans would think that whoever was in the lead at that time had the game in hand, especially if they had that spread coming into the third and final period. Unfortunately in hockey, the two-goal lead has and always will be the most dangerous lead in hockey to have. Having led the game by two goals left with little time remaining, the team with the lead can often times take their foot off the gas, resting with the lead and begin to coast through the game.
However, that move will always backfire on a team. Giving up the first goal, the team that is down begins to build momentum. The team that once had a two-goal lead is now just a moment away from seeing a tie game. With a push of momentum, the team down by a goal can often take advantage of a team that had there foot off the gas. Once momentum has shifted, the team that had the lead now has to attempt to turn the “switch” back on- which can often fail. And then Bam… just like that, the game is tied up. Whatever possible momentum was created by the first goal has now tripled, as the team down by two goals is sure to be flying high, skating faster, and buzzing around the enemies net after making such a comeback. Not every game that has a blown two-goal lead will end in failure for the team that blew it. For example, in the Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues Game Two, the Blues had a 2-0 lead after the first. They lost the lead in the 2nd, but still ended up winning in OT. For the rest of the teams in the playoffs that blew two-goal leads, their stories sang a different tune.
In the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets series in particular, Games One through Four read by almost the exact same headlines, see-sawing back-and-forth between which team blew a two-goal lead. In Game One, the Penguins rallied from two goals down to win 4-3. In Game Two, the Blue Jackets went down by two- twice– and still rallied to win 4-3 in Double Overtime. In Game Three, it was the Pens turn to rally back from two goals down- twice– and win 4-3. In Game Four, swing it back to the Blue Jackets as the Penguins blow a two-goal lead- twice– and win 4-3. The madness, however, did not stop at this series.
Also out of the East, in the Detroit Red Wings-Boston Bruins series, Game Four saw Detroit with a 2-0 lead in the second. The Wings lost that game 3-2 in Overtime and gave Boston the ever important 3-1 series lead. In the New York Rangers- Philadelphia Flyers second game, New York scored two quick goals in the first, only to allow four unanswered and lost 4-2.
Going out to the West, in the San Jose Sharks-LA Kings Game Three, the Kings had a 2-0 lead after the first, showing signs of life after being pummeled in Games One and Two. However, the Kings ended up getting pummeled anyway, giving up seven unanswered in roughly 30 minutes as the Sharks won 7–2. In a crazy Game One between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota held a 4-2 lead late in the third, but ended up losing in overtime. In the Dallas Stars-Anaheim Ducks matchup, there were two blown two-goal leads. In Game Four, Anaheim held a 2-0 lead after the first and ended up losing 4-2. In the all-important Game Six, Dallas held a 4-2 lead late in the third at home attempting to force a Game Seven and eventually gave up three unanswered, losing in Overtime.
Whatever the cause is for all of these blown two-goal leads, keep an eye out for a two-goal lead in these upcoming games and see if whoever is down can rally back to keep this anomaly going. In the case of the Pittsburgh series in particular, the Pens just hope that a replay of Game Five’s two-goal lead will continue.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles