Penguins notebook: Power plays at minimum in Final
SAN JOSE, Calif. — It looks like the Penguins and San Jose Sharks have reached the point in the playoffs where referees have put their whistles in their pockets.
In the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins and Sharks each have averaged two power plays per game. Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, the average for both teams was about 3.5 per game.
“It just seems like that's the trend in the playoffs,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “You usually don't get a lot of opportunities on the power play. If you have a chance to make it work, that's great.”
Penguins forward Eric Fehr said the scarcity of whistles creates a scary situation for players when they're trying to defend.
“They put the whistles away for pretty much the entire game, but they're going to call something,” Fehr said. “You don't want to be that guy that they call. As much as you know you can get away with quite a bit, you don't want to lose that lottery.”
On the rare occasions when the Penguins do earn a power play, they need to improve their entries into the offensive zone, Sullivan said Sunday. The Penguins are 1 for 17 on the power play over their past six games.
Penguins netminder Matt Murray knew he gave up a bad goal when Joel Ward's slapper from the blue line snuck through his pads in the third period of Game 3.
He also regarded Joonas Donskoi's game-winner in overtime, which hit Murray in the side of the head before finding the net, as a tad maddening.
But the rookie made it clear after Sunday's practice at the SAP Center that he refused to let either goal define his performance, one in which he turned away 23 of 26 shots.
“I wouldn't really call (Game 4) a bounce-back game, to be honest,” Murray said. “One bad goal doesn't make it a bad game. I thought I was really good all game. A lot of big saves. They out-chanced us.
“I'm not really focused on results. I'm focused on the process and how I feel out there. ... Last game is no different.”
Murray has finished with a save percentage below 90 in each of his five playoff loses. He has turned away 94.2 percent of the shots he faced (359 of 381) in his 13 playoff wins.
Asked specifically about Donskoi's goal, a sharp-angle wrist shot that snuck into the nearside top corner, Murray mentioned the difficulty of reading the initial release.
“I think if I'm just a little bit more upright, it hits me in the shoulder and wherever,” Murray said. “I think he also got lucky with a rolling puck. But I don't really think about it too much, to be honest.”
Just two players, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, did not participate in the Penguins practice on Sunday.
Coach Mike Sullivan described both as absent because of “maintenance days.”
Letang accumulated 31 minutes, 58 seconds of ice time in Game 3, his fourth-highest total of the playoffs.
Maatta logged 21:47, his second-highest total in the postseason.
Pump up the volume
Sharks fans witnessed their team finish with a minus-16 differential in shots on goal in Game 3, but they recognized sustained offensive-zone pressure and responded in a way that even resonated with the Penguins.
“The fans get really into it when they just keep rimming it around the boards, back and forth,” center Nick Bonino said. “There's not really a threat to us. But with the fans screaming and getting all excited, it makes you think a little bit, like, ‘Aw, crap, are we in trouble? Are we panicking?' And I don't think we should.
“We limited them to six shots in the first period. I thought we played solid. They might've had some zone time, but we were smart about it. We kept them to the outside, and going forward, we're going to need to do more of that.”
Though the Sharks finished with just 26 shots on goal, they held the edge in attempts, 79-76.
San Jose exceeded 70 attempts for just the second time this postseason. The first instance came in a 4-3, triple-overtime loss to Nashville on May 5.