PITTSBURGH - Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is not holding back.
Normally reserved in public comments, Bylsma offered harsh words for his team following a 4-3 overtime loss at Columbus on Wednesday that tied the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series at two games apiece.
He said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury misplayed a puck, the Penguins needed better effort from all players, and franchise centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin need to score.
“The work and compete and the battle level has probably been the most troubling thing from our team,” Bylsma said Thursday, a Penguins off day leading to Game 5 on Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
Asked whether Fleury was correct to play a bouncing puck behind his net late in regulation — a gaffe that led to Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky's game-tying goal — Bylsma didn't take his goalie's side.
“Typically the rule of thumb is the puck's on the glass, you stay in the net. Puck's on the dasher, you have a truer read on the play,” Bylsma said. “Given the time of the game, the place, the play is to stay in the net and not go out and attempt a play on the puck.
“This one was on the glass, bouncing, and Marc knows he should have stayed in the net.”
Bylsma's final salvo began with him saying the Penguins need more from Crosby and Malkin — who haven't scored in nine and eight consecutive playoff games, respectively — and ended with another indictment of his team's effort.
“We've talked about this question with Evgeni and Sidney scoring goals,” Bylsma said. “Do they need to score goals? Do we need more? They're our best players. We need more from our whole team. And we need more from them.
“That is, again, from the areas we've talked about. It's our compete level. It's our puck battles. It's our willingness to play in those areas and make it a tough game. Our whole team needs to be better in that regard.”
Bylsma's performance at Consol Energy Center on Thursday should not be taken lightly.
Since his hiring in February 2009, he has chosen words carefully, often taking several seconds to respond to a question while mixing in a deep breath or two. Also, Bylsma told the Tribune-Review in February 2012 that it is not in his character to publicly criticize players, yell or throw things behind closed doors.
Yet the most-scrutinized play of the game — Fleury's misplay of a dumped puck, then Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen's backhand feed to Dubinsky, who scored with 24 seconds remaining — generated a critical, detailed assessment from Bylsma, who studied video of the sequence Thursday morning.
“You're reading the play,” Bylsma said. “I think you do have a pretty good idea whether it's on the boards or on the glass. It's very much like reading a shot coming at him.
“Marc-Andre Fleury is an exceptional skating goaltender, so his ability to get out (of the net) is very high. We've talked about reeling that in as far as how many times and when he goes out. That certainly should come into play at that time of the game. Six on five, when the goalie's pulled, under a minute and a half, all those things go into that read.”
Bylsma's directness strikes a tone similar to what he said following a 6-4 loss to the New York Islanders in Game 4 during the first round last year, a game that featured mistakes by Fleury, a blown lead and three unanswered goals in the third period.
Tension may be high within the Penguins, who have won only three of seven playoff series since claiming the Cup in 2009.
Majority co-owner Mario Lemieux took the uncharacteristic step of speaking with Fleury inside the locker room after Game 4. Lemieux spent several minutes surveying the room without speaking as players headed for the changing area.
(Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.)