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Rossi: Late-game moves pay off

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 11:21 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Brandon Sutter plays against the Senators on Friday, May 17, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Brandon Sutter is not alone.

Most of the Penguins expect the Ottawa Senators to reach deep in Game 3 of a second-round Stanley Cup playoff series Sunday at Scotiabank Place.

After all, these Senators played most of the regular season without their three best players — defenseman Erik Karlsson, center Jason Spezza and goalie Craig Anderson — and still qualified for the playoffs.

“They're definitely not going away,” Sutter said after a victory in Game 2 on Friday night, when the Penguins took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Senators showed their disinterest in bowing out gracefully by trimming a three-goal deficit to one with 17 minutes left in regulation, then attempting 18 shots.

But the Senators managed to only get six of those attempts through against Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun.

The Penguins, for the first time in eight games this postseason, looked a lot like the club that went on winning streaks of 15 and seven games over the final two regular-season months. They flashed the style of shutdown hockey that players had said since training camp would be required to win the Cup.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma considered that development another sign his players have learned tough lessons from recent postseason failures.

He cited two shifts over the final four minutes by a line of Sutter and wingers Craig Adams and Pascal Dupuis.

Most interesting about those shifts is that Sutter, Adams and Dupuis all hold down regular spots on other lines. Adams is an anchor of the fourth line, Sutter the third, and Dupuis plays on the top line with captain Sidney Crosby.

A popular knock on Bylsma is that he does not make adjustments, but he never has shied away from altering lines late in games while the Penguins are protecting a lead. His preference is to play defensively responsible players together, counting on their individual own-zone awareness to create instant chemistry.

That happened late in Game 2 with the Adams-Sutter-Dupuis line.

The Senators will come hard at the Penguins in Game 3, no matter the score.

If they are down late, though, Ottawa can expect a healthy dose of Adams, Sutter and Dupuis.

The Penguins have learned from their blown leads of past playoffs, and their late-game personnel adjustments are the latest example that tough lessons are paying off.

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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