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Penguins turn focus toward power play

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Monday, May 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — All persons associated with the Penguins' struggling power-play attack — 1-for-24 over the past five games, with just 29 shots — agree with defenseman Sergei Gonchar that "it's not just one play hurting (them)."

"As a group we have to be better all over the ice — plays down low, plays up top, on the breakout," Gonchar said Sunday. "All over the ice we have to improve, and that's what we talked about in our morning meeting."

After that meeting, the Penguins unveiled a power-play attack with veteran winger Bill Guerin and his right-handed shot in the slot on the first-unit - a spot previously manned by winger Chris Kunitz, who has scored only one goal in the past 17 games, including playoffs.

Also, assistant coach Mike Yeo, who designs the power-play attack, urged center Evgeni Malkin and right-handed shooting defenseman Kris Letang to skate deeper into the offensive zone before shooting.

Letang said he and Gonchar, the points tandem, and Malkin, are too near the blueline when taking shots — though perhaps that is the least of the Penguins' power-play problems.

"We just need to make sure that we're clear on what we have to do," center Sidney Crosby said.

Added Letang: "It looks like when we start the power play we aren't sure what we were doing. We don't generate any momentum and give some to the other team."

That other team, despite not having allowed a power-play goal in seven consecutive playoff games, is hardly known for its penalty-killing prowess. The Washington Capitals rated 17th during the regular season with an 80.6-perecent kill efficiency rate — though they are at 88.9 in the playoffs.

"I'm pretty sure everyone knows our penalty kill reputation, so we're going to fear everything," Capitals center David Steckel said. "We've had great stretches, and then we've had horrendous stretches where (opponents have) scored non-stop."

Guerin said the Penguins must "control (their) emotions" on the power play, but Letang's assessment seems a superior fix.

"It's about shooting when you have a chance," he said. "It has to be our focus."

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