Special teams key Penguins' Game 1 victory over Senators
Paul MacLean called it the difference in Game 1.
Actually, the Ottawa Senators coach could have been talking about the Stanley Cup playoffs so far.
The Penguins' special teams — 2 for 4 on the power play, 5 for 5 on the penalty kill — led them to a 4-1 victory over the Senators on Tuesday night for a 1-0 lead in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The best-of-seven series resumes with Game 2 at Consol Energy Center on Friday.
“We only took three minor penalties in the game, and they took advantage of two of them, and that's a credit to them,” MacLean said, noting a Penguins power play that is clicking at 36 percent (9 of 25) in the playoffs.
“So, obviously, you can't give them any power-play opportunities.”
The Senators, like the New York Islanders before them in Round 1, also failed to take advantage of opportunities on their power plays.
They generated only seven shots on five man-advantage chances.
Winger Pascal Dupuis' goal on a critical third-period penalty kill was the icing on a special cake.
The key ingredient is confidence, Penguins players said.
That is especially applicable to a penalty kill that has stymied opponents on 23 of 25 chances in the playoffs — a 92-percent rate that is another galaxy from the 47.8 percent in a Round 1 loss to Philadelphia last postseason.
The Penguins were 25th of 30 clubs with a 79.6 percent penalty kill during the regular season.
So, turning these playoffs into the NHL's version of “The Killing” probably was not an expectation.
“It was one of our big focuses going into the playoffs,” defenseman Douglas Murray said. “I've never looked at the stats, but I'm sure whoever wins (the Cup) usually has one of the best penalty kills.”
Los Angeles won the Cup on the strength of a 92.1-percent penalty kill, tied for first in the playoffs, last spring.
Boston was sixth in the playoffs at 84.4 percent the year before, with champion Chicago fourth at 83.3 percent the playoffs before.
The Penguins have not won the Stanley Cup since 2009, when they placed fifth at 83.3 percent on the penalty kill.
In first-round losses the last two postseasons, the Penguins went a combined 60 percent on the penalty kill (30 of 50).
Coach Dan Bylsma spent all of last summer studying the techniques used by successful clubs — notably Los Angeles and New Jersey — with the idea of using the regular season to build a penalty kill that could thrive in the playoffs.
So far, his plan is working — in one specific way, defenseman Paul Martin said.
“We're being aggressive,” Martin said. “There are pucks we're getting to first, and we're not giving (opponents) too many second opportunities.”
The Penguins have needed their special teams' success because before this game they had struggled to dominate 5 on 5 with only a plus-4 goal differential.
“I don't think 5 on 5 we out-chanced the Islanders,” Bylsma said. “(Tuesday), especially in the first period, we were way more where we need to be and how we need to play.”
That turned into power-play goals by Martin and left winger Chris Kunitz.
Center Evgeni Malkin added one at even strength and, with an assist, built his postseason point total to 13 in seven games, a 1.86 average.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun, making his third consecutive start, stopped 35 shots.
All of that mattered, but the special teams mattered most against the Senators in Game 1.
That kind of sustained success will kill a lot of doubt — it existed after the top-seeded Penguins needed six games to oust the New York Islanders in Round 1 — that this is truly, as Penguins players believe, a “special team.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Leader Times staffers recognized for journalism excellence by Press Club
- Electric versions of Asian rickshaw paves their way into U.S. market
- Cheap oil can hurt economy
- Kittanning Municipal Authority seeks agreement to clarify its role
- PennDOT puts final touches on Route 28 construction
- King gets surprise Late Model victory at Lernerville
- Roundup: Jefferson Hospital hit by data thief; Toyota promises to help find cause of Takata airbag defects; more
- Cole outduels Mets rookie, carries Pirates to victory
- Lowly job likely awaits former Pittsburgh police chief after prison
- Graffiti points to rubble
- Truck smashes into house, driver arrested in Elizabeth Township