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Penguins Insider: No. 3 line reflects coach Bylsma

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 11:58 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Matt Cooke (24) and Brenden Morrow gang up on the Islanders' Frans Nielsen on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

As a player, Dan Bylsma made it to and stayed in the NHL because of his mind and muscle.

As a coach, Bylsma is seeking a second championship knowing full well his most effective line did not produce a goal in the Penguins' 5-0 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Friday at Consol Energy Center, and Bylsma gladly will take another no-goal performance from his third line — if, that is, its components match their opening performance.

Islanders center John Tavares — a finalist on this voter's Hart Trophy ballot — was marked by Penguins wingers Brenden Morrow and Matt Cooke, who hit Tavares whenever possible in Game 1.

Tavares finished without a shot in his first playoff game.

He can expect more shots from Morrow and Cooke in Game 2.

Morrow is as brutish a hitter as Cooke is calculating.

Each winger leaves a mark that lingers. Morrow's hits hurt physically. Cooke's don't feel good, but his reputation as an on-the-edge hitter messes with opposing players' minds.

“Together they make a formidable, physical presence that is a pretty good characteristic of that line,” Bylsma said of Morrow and Cooke.

Center Brandon Sutter has the mind to make use of his wingers' muscle.

A high-IQ player who is opportunistic offensively and stifling defensively, Sutter has quickly learned to read off Morrow and Cooke. He lurks in the defensive and neutral zones, almost as if he is hunting space that opposing forwards erroneously presume is available.

When these three components are clicking — as they have most of the past three weeks — they are a true shutdown element because they can physically beat down opposing forwards and break down opposing coaches' game plans.

Bylsma began training camp in January by acknowledging the Penguins had lacked a third-line identity in recent underachieving postseasons.

They have one now, and he will keep this third line together as long as his players' health allows.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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