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Special teams fail Penguins in opener

Saturday, 05.02.2009 / 7:13 PM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- If the Pittsburgh Penguins expect to advance beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they'll need a lot more out of their special teams.

The Penguins were powerless against the Washington Capitals in Saturday's 3-2 loss in Game 1 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Semifinal series. They failed to score and generated only six shots on five power-play opportunities, while allowing a power-play goal. They know that has to change for Game 2 on Monday night.

"We talked as a team about this before the game, that even if we don't score on the power play, we just didn't want to lose momentum in the game. But I thought there were a couple times when their penalty kill outplayed our power play and helped them gain momentum, and that was a letdown," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I thought we played them even 5-on-5, but, overall, they beat us 1-0 on special teams. We gave one up on a 3-on-5 on a couple of undisciplined penalties."

With stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have plenty of firepower. But solving Washington's penalty-killers won't be easy; the Capitals have killed 32 of 36 power-play opportunities in the postseason (88.9 percent) and haven't allowed a power-play goal at the Verizon Center since Game 1 of the opening round against the New York Rangers.

The Penguins have scored just 4 power-play goals in 37 postseason chances -- a not-very-good 10.8 percent. They finished 20th in the NHL during the regular season with the man advantage at 17.2 percent.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said his team's 36 shots on goal were a little deceptive.

"I think the shot total of 36 is something you like to see at the end of the game, but I think we could have even had a few more if we concentrated on getting more pucks to the net," Bylsma said. "We had chances to get more goals, but their goalie (Simeon Varlamov) made a huge save there with the empty net, the open net (on Crosby)."

Some players, such as forward Maxime Talbot, feel it's just a matter of time before the power play begins to click.

"I don't think we're worried about (the power play)," Talbot said. "Our power play has been good the last three years. We might have to make some adjustments, but that's part of playoff hockey. We know special-team battles are important, and we'll make the proper adjustments and come out stronger in Game 2."

Defenseman Mark Eaton, who scored his third goal of the postseason to tie the game in the second period, understands the importance of having success on the power play.

"We lost the special-teams battle but, really, it was much more than that," Eaton said. "We had a stretch in the second where we didn't play well and needed to stick to our game plan. That's the style that was successful against the Flyers (in the opening round). We need to play a full 60 minutes."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.





Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp