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Communication keys Pens' defense in win

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By Mike Prisuta
Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Penguins knew what they had to do heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and what they had to prevent the Capitals from doing.

"Going forward, our success will depend on making sure we shut down their rush," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

They finally found a way to do so in Game 3 on Wednesday night at Mellon Arena, outshooting the Capitals, 42-23, and winning, 3-2, in overtime.

Defenseman Kris Letang's goal at 11:23 of the extra session sliced the Capital' series lead to two games to one.

Game 4 is Friday night at Mellon Arena.

Washington scored on a gift goal less than a minute and a half in off a misplay by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury that resulted in an unguarded net for left wing Alex Ovechkin, and again on a power-play goal by center Nicklas Backstrom with 1:50 remaining in regulation.

But after the first 10 minutes of the opening period, the Caps generated very little.

They had hurt the Penguins repeatedly in Games 1 and 2 on rushes where the Penguins had the necessary numbers back in position to defend but still wound up surrendering shots to wide-open players.

In Game 2, the Caps had scored on a blast by a wide-open Ovechkin even thought the Penguins outnumbered the Capitals inside the Penguins' blue line.

And center David Steckel had scored after being left alone to Fleury's left even though there were three Penguins positioned inside the top of the face-off circles in the Pens' end and just two Capitals.

"You gotta have a man on a man when they have the puck, but, yeah, it's a zone," defenseman Hal Gill said of the Penguins' defensive approach. "We have to read the situation and make sure we talk it out."

The Penguins apparently talked it out a lot better in Game 3.

They also controlled the puck and the play for long stretches, which didn't hurt.

Ovechkin rang up 21 shots in the first two games but was held to five in three-plus periods in Game 3.

The Pens had taken the ice intending to tighten up by communicating better in the defensive end.

"A simple 'I got it,'" defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "A lot of times we'll say 'release,' which basically means 'I have him, go to someone else.' It's communication."

That's been the plan all along.

"By the (center-ice) red line we need to understand who's going to take the puck carrier and identify late guys (jumping into the play)," Bylsma said. "They do a real good job on the rush. If you give them one (open) opportunity, it might be one too many.

"We knew that going in. It's not something we had to come up with or dream up halfway through the series here. It's been a focus every game."

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