We told you this thing would go 7 games, but we don't have to feel good about how we got here. The playoffs can take over your life. People in my office this morning are either tip-toeing past my door or pausing only to give their condolences. It's a little weird, and we all need to move on. There is still a game to be played on Wednesday. But first, an exercise in catharsis in lieu of the standard recap. In the grand tradition of Penguin playoff text messages, the following exchange took place Monday night between 7:15 and 10:53 p.m. I'm warning you, it gets a little dark.
Artistry, 7:15 pm - You live?
Finesse, 7:16 pm - Yes.
Artistry, 7:17 pm - Bylsma listened to the podcast, called out Letestu, flipped Neal and Kunitz.
Finesse, 7:18 pm - And this surprises you?
Artistry, 7:21 pm - Need to be a lot stronger on the puck.
Finesse, 7:23 pm - I worry the line switching will render Hands irrelevant.
Artistry, 7:24 pm - Legit concern. Kovy looks off. I vote we put Kuny Talbot Dupuis together and give Letestu's line less minutes.
[Roloson fumbles the puck. Talbot finds Dupuis in front on a bang-bang play. 1-0 Penguins]
Finesse, 7:25 pm - Dupuis is a real man. A hero, in fact.
[Kovalev commits a brutal offensive zone turnover and hooking penalty.]
Artistry, 7:26 pm - Kovy is awful.
Finesse, 7:27 pm - Kovalev is close to needing to be a healthy scratch.
Artistry, 7:28 pm - He is showing signs of dementia. At times he thinks he's playing a preseason game for Ottawa.
Finesse, 7:29 pm - He has one speed: slowly apathetic.
[Jordan Staal buries Matthias Ohlund on the forecheck.]
Finesse, 7:38 pm - Staal should be that strong every game. He's manhandling people. Unfortunately, we refuse to stop taking terrible penalties. This is an incurable problem.
Artistry, 7:40 pm - Terrible. Stamkos has his confidence. We're going to pay.
Artistry, 7:44 pm - It takes a real effort by Letang to make himself a liability. He's giving it 100%.
Finesse, 7:45 pm - We are getting crushed.
Artistry, 7:46 pm - Thrilled with a tie after one. Penalties killed us. Inexcusable.
Artistry, 7:59 pm - Is Letang uncoachable? Does he speak English? Is he high?
Finesse, 8:05 pm - His mind hasn't grown into his talent yet. It will happen, hopefully. He also might think he is better than he actually is. Remember, he CANNOT actually score goals, which is unusual for someone so heralded as an offensive defenseman.
Artistry, 8:07 pm - Letang vs. Goligoski in five years: still an open question? What about in two years?
Finesse, 8:08 pm - Still go Letang overall. But burying the puck is a skill that he doesn't have.
Artistry, 8:08 pm - Big pp.
[Kovalev loses a battle for the puck on the boards.]
Artistry, 8:10 pm - Kovy sucks on the boards.
[Chris Conner is denied on a 3-on-1.]
Artistry, 8:13 pm - Conner needed to bury that. Missed by three feet.
Finesse, 8:13 pm - Wide open net.
Finesse, 8:14 pm - Sad truth - we are relying on Chris Conner to score.
[Dominic Moore undresses the Pens' third defense pairing. Letestu in space. Bergenheim hits an open net. 2-1 Lightning.]
Artistry, 8:16 pm - Maybe 4 of our worst 5 guys on the ice for that one.
Finesse, 8:18 pm - Who is reliable right now? Dupuis, Adams, Rupp, Talbot, Orpik. That's the list.
Artistry, 8:20 pm - Just watch Letang unravel completely.
[Pens get another power play.]
Artistry, 8:21 pm - Any chance at all we score here? I put it at 2%.
Finesse, 8:21 pm - That's our PP%.
Artistry, 8:21 pm - Exactly.
[After failing to score on the power play, the Pens get another stellar opportunity as Chris Conner is taken down on a breakaway. Penalty shot.]
Finesse, 8:26 pm - That's about right.
Artistry, 8:26 pm - mmm.
Finesse, 8:32 pm - Let's think positively. This is a one goal game. But on the other hand, if we win, do the Caps eliminate us in 2 or 3 games?
Artistry, 8:34 pm - I'm not sure it pays to care. Geno and Sid aren't walking through that door. Or are they...
Finesse, 8:34 pm - They aren't.
[Something else bad happens.]
Artistry, 8:47 pm - I'm going to puke.
Artistry, 8:58 pm - Rossi points out that Pens haven't won a single game this year when behind after two.
Finesse, 8:59 pm - Knew that. No better time than now.
[Staal ties the game at 2-2 off the feed from Niskanen.]
Artistry, 9:10 pm - Wooo.
Finesse, 9:11 pm - Niskanen.
[Steve Downie scores. 3-2 Lightning.]
Finesse, 9:12 pm - Ouch.
[Ryan Malone takes his 28th minor penalty of the series.]
Artistry, 9:14 pm - Malone is such a f---ing punk.
Finesse, 9:15 pm - He isn't even annoying to play against because he's so dumb that he keeps getting caught.
Artistry, 9:15 pm - Idiot.
Finesse, 9:17 pm - No chance we score. A guy in a coma is texting in their PK strategy.
[Ryan Malone, of all people, scores. 4-2.]
Finesse, 9:29 pm - Despondent.
[I get an email from my friends, who blame Paul Martin for this game, the economy, and world hunger.]
Artistry, 9:29 pm - These guys are starting in on Martin again. I am genuinely confused. I also feel like stabbing myself in the face.
Finesse, 9:31 pm - It's the entire team. To single one person out isn't fair. Michalek has been face down for 4 goals this series. We just look completely gassed. We are in constant survival mode out there. We have to work too hard for success. Unsustainable. That's why things snowball like this.
Artistry, 9:33 pm - Maybe we are just a bad team with heart.
Finesse, 9:34 pm - We said 7 games. This isn't surprising.
Artistry, 9:44 pm - I feel nothing.
Finesse, 10:47 pm - Need to try to stay positive.
Artistry, 10:53 pm - OK, I'll try.
At which point, I went to get a beer, ensuring I would have to pee at 4:15 in the morning, and stared out the window into the darkness.