- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Sidney Crosby will be back. Evgeni Malkin too.

After that, what happens to the Pittsburgh Penguins over another postseason disappointment is anybody’s guess.

Dan Bylsma, the winningest coach in franchise history, may be out of a job. Ray Shero, the general manager who spent the last half-decade unsuccessfully trying to replicate the success of 2009, could also be gone.

When Crosby lifted the Stanley Cup in triumph on that warm night in Detroit five years ago, it was supposed to mark the beginning of hockey’s next dynasty.

That hasn’t materialized. A handful of maddening springs later, it might be time to move on. Bylsma allowed as much Tuesday night after the Penguins fell to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, a 2-1 defeat that capped a stunning collapse after Pittsburgh grabbed a commanding 3-1 series lead.

“You think about it being the last game,” Bylsma said.

While the Rangers exulted at one end of the Consol Energy Center ice after advancing to hockey’s final four, the Penguins solemnly lined up for a handshake after losing a Game 7 at home for the third time in five seasons.

This isn’t the way it was supposed to go. Not this time. Despite losing over 500 man games to injury - easily the highest total in the NHL - Pittsburgh strolled to the Metropolitan Division title behind the steady and spectacular play of Crosby, who led the league in scoring and is a heavy favorite to win his second MVP award.

After surviving a bumpy six-game series with plucky Columbus in the opening round, the Penguins appeared in total control after a 4-2 win in Game 4 against the weary Rangers.

Then it all fell apart. A dismal 5-1 loss in Game 5 shifted momentum to the guys in the blue shirts. New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist did the rest, including 35 sublime saves in the deciding game.

Defenseman Matt Niskanen called the debacle in Game 5 a “missed opportunity,” one that could lead to significant change in a dressing room that has been among the most stable in the league.

“When expectations are high and you don’t win, that’s normal,” Crosby said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of questions.”

At the moment, there don’t appear to be a lot of answers.

Crosby insists he’s healthy but lacked his otherworldly sharpness at times, scoring just one goal in 13 playoff games.

“It wasn’t a lack of effort or competing or anything like that,” he said. “I’d love to tear it up every series, but it’s not always the case. It doesn’t make it any easier, I’ll tell you that. It’s tough losing as it is but when you’re unable to contribute as much as you’d like, it’s even tougher.”

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