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Stanley Cup Final

5 Keys: Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 4

Clean zone entries on power play, establishing chip and chase game the main focus

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

SAN JOSE -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will play the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 after losing 3-2 in overtime in Game 3 on Saturday.

Here are five keys for the Penguins in Game 4:

1. ENTRIES ON THE POWER PLAY

The Penguins had one power play in Game 3, but it was enough for center Sidney Crosby to notice a bad trend, one that goes back to their two failed power plays in Game 2.

They are struggling to gain the zone, which is a big reason why they aren't getting set up and generating shots and opportunities. The Penguins had one shot on goal on their one power play in Game 3. They had three on their two power plays in Game 2.

"I made a couple bad passes there that kind of killed momentum, especially early," Crosby said. "I think once we get in there usually we're able to make some plays, but I've gotta make a couple better plays."

The Penguins like to use the drop pass to either Crosby or Phil Kessel as a way to gain the zone. In the last two games, it has slowed them down and the second pass after the drop pass has not been crisp, so they haven't gotten into the zone cleanly.

It would help them get a rhythm on the power play if they got more power play opportunities, but they can't expect that to happen so they have to be better on the few chances they get.

"When they have established zone time, they usually make plays, they find the plays that are there, they create scoring opportunities," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "[Saturday] night that wasn't the case. We didn't have sufficient zone time to give the power play a chance."

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm3: Lovejoy hammers it past Jones

2. CHIP AND CHASE GAME

There are two ways to look at this part of the Penguins' game in Game 3.

To start, they have thrived in the playoffs by chipping the puck out of the zone, into space and using their speed to chase it down. The Sharks, though, seemed to have better anticipation for those plays and were able to get to the loose pucks quicker than they did in Games 1 and 2.

"Fifty-fifty," left wing Carl Hagelin said. "I think we had a couple good chances off of those flip-outs or chips, but we can definitely be better. We definitely want to get more."

The second part is there were times when the Sharks pinched down the wall and prevented the Penguins from either chipping it into the space they wanted to get it to, or from chipping it out at all.

This might require an adjustment from the Penguins. They might need to start chipping the puck out quicker, before the Sharks can pinch down the wall, or maybe stop looking to do it as often so the Sharks can't anticipate the play. That may get the Sharks guessing.

"As wingers I think we've got to be stiffer in the next game in getting some more pucks out in those certain areas," Hagelin said.

3. MURRAY'S REPSONSE

Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray is 4-0 with a .929 save percentage in starts after a loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has allowed eight goals on 114 shots in those games. It's proof of what the Penguins have been saying about Murray throughout the postseason; his mindset is strong regardless of the situation.

Murray allowed three goals on 26 shots in Game 3. He didn't like the goal he allowed on Joel Ward at 8:48 of the third period, but otherwise said he felt good and played a strong game.

He seems to always have a strong response. Another one in Game 4 could put the Penguins within one win of a Stanley Cup championship.

"I wouldn't call it a bounceback game to be honest," Murray said. "One bad goal doesn't make it a bad game. I thought I was really good all game. I made a lot of big saves. I thought I was good all game."

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm3: Hornqvist deflects it past Jones

4. CROSBY'S IMPACT

Crosby was arguably the best player on the ice in Games 1 and 2. It's probably even fair to take the word arguably out of that sentence. Why hedge when he was as dominant as he was in helping the Penguins win both games?

He wasn't as effective in Game 3, when Sharks coach Peter DeBoer was able to get the matchup he wanted, putting defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun on Crosby for the majority of the time he was on the ice.

Crosby was held to three shots on goal, including one in regulation. He didn't get a point or have any particularly memorable scoring chances either.

It's going to be difficult for Sullivan to free Crosby from that matchup because the Sharks still have the last change advantage in Game 4. So it'll be on Crosby to play through it and find a way to be dangerous again. The Penguins need him to be.

5. MALKIN MANIA

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has no points in the Stanley Cup Final and one goal in the past 15 games. His lack of scoring hasn't been a major issue for Pittsburgh considering its leading 2-1 in the series, but it stands to reason that at some point the Penguins will need Malkin to produce.

He has eight shots on goal in the series, so he's getting some chances, but the lack of power-play opportunities and the ineffective zone entries on the power play has hurt him. Malkin's overall game could benefit if the Penguins get some rhythm going on the power play.

The Penguins, though, were a plus-14 in 5-on-5 shot attempts with Malkin on the ice in Game 3, according to War-on-Ice.com, so it's not as if he's having a negative impact. A goal would go a long way to justifying the positive effect of Malkin's contribution.

"It just takes a bounce or a goal or some sort of momentum to kind of get that confidence going," Crosby said. "When you have the chances usually that confidence is there, and he's had them so that's a good thing. You look at his game and what he generates for himself and the guys around him, it should be just a matter of time."

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