PITTSBURGH -- One of the great mysteries of the 2009-10 season was the Pittsburgh Penguins' struggles on the power play. How could a team that could send Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bill Guerin and Sergei Gonchar over the boards only covert at 17.2 percent during the regular season?
Despite finishing just 17th in the NHL during the regular season, the Penguins' power play scored twice in five attempts in the 5-4 Game 1 loss, on a pair of goals by Evgeni Malkin. The hope is for more of the same Friday night in Game 2 (7 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS).
Malkin's first goal, just over three minutes into the game, gave the Penguins an early lead. His second, midway through the second period, pulled the Pens within a goal at 3-2.
"I think, especially early on, we were pretty aggressive, we shot the puck," said Crosby, who assisted on both of Malkin's goals. "When you shoot the puck, you open things up. Sometimes it doesn't always go in, but it did go in for us. We had that mentality to get pucks to the net."
It's a mentality that was missing early in the season. For the first 47 games of the season, the Penguins' power play was producing at only a 14.3-percent clip (28-for-196). The final 35 games, however, Pittsburgh improved to 21.5 percent (28-for-130).
"A lot of people talk about our power play," Crosby said, "but if you look at the stats, the last 30 game we were one of the top (teams). ... We're confident in our power play. We don't feel like we've had to change a whole lot coming into the playoffs. We've done a good job down the stretch of making sure habits are there, so when you get to the playoffs there's not much adjusting. We feel confident in it."
That confidence comes from simplifying their plan of attack.
"The first half of the season we spent trying to discuss why we were at 15 percent," coach Dan Bylsma said. "For the last 35 games we've been (near) 22 percent. That's a pretty decent number."
"Early in the season I think we tried to do too much on it," defenseman Kris Letang said. "In the first game it was pretty simple. We moved the puck quick and we took some shots form the half-wall that ended up going in. Or if it went off the goalie it was a scoring chance form the slot. We simplified the thing on the power play and passed the puck and we had success on it."
Crosby believes that with the Senators choosing to sit back and clog the middle of the ice with their penalty killers, the shoot-first mentality with bodies in front of the net is the right way to go.
"Shooting the puck with traffic is always good," Crosby said. "Getting those goals around the net, creating that havoc, (and) with the power play it's the same thing -- you want to be aggressive, you want to get pucks to the net. The more shots you get the more chances you create. If we shoot more maybe they'll sit back a little more and protect that. That's what we're trying to do."
And Bylsma said if the Senators get more aggressive on their penalty kill, his team can adjust and still excel.
"The success we had in the game was how we've been having success," he said. "Trying to do a little more puck movement and motion, not just stationary. And that allows our good players to play to their strengths, cutting down the seam and cycling down low. ... Our power play has been pretty darn good for a while and won us some hockey games. It was big for us last game in getting us the lead early and getting us back into the game. I think that's an indication of some of the things we've been doing for a couple months."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org