The Pittsburgh Penguins have made a habit of living on the edge in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
They'd like to drop the habit when they drop the puck for the opening of the finals tonight against the Minnesota North Stars."It would be nice to win the first game for a change," said Pittsburgh Coach Bob Johnson, whose team has lost every opening game in the three previous series.
The Penguins have really made things tough on themselves in the playoffs. After losing the opener of their first-round series to New Jersey and later falling behind 3-2, the Penguins came back to beat the Devils in seven games.
The Penguins lost the opener to Washington, then won four in a row to clinch the Patrick Division championship.
And after losing the first two games to Boston, the Penguins ripped off four straight to win the Wales Conference crown.
The Penguins, who are as mystified as anyone about their continual opening-game failures, know only one way to reverse it: hard work.
"We need to stay focused," said forward Kevin Stevens, along with Mark Recchi one of two 40-goal scorers on the Penguins. "We worked all our lives to get into a position where we are. It won't be tough to get the intensity going."
By the same token, the North Stars have been getting the jump in their three previous series, winning opening games against Chicago, St. Louis and Edmonton.
"Minnesota has a very good team, and they have beaten three very good teams to be here," Pittsburgh center Mario Lemieux said. "They are well-coached, consistent and play very similar to Montreal with the forechecking and defensive play. They will be very tough to play against."