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Bylsma pleased by Penguins setting physical tone

by Shawn P. Roarke

PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma doesn't buy the NHL stats that say his Pittsburgh Penguins significantly out-hit the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center.

The League's official stat sheet said Pittsburgh enjoyed a 40-26 advantage in hits in Game 1. It's not that Bylsma doesn't believe the disparity, he just doesn't care about what the Senators did. Wednesday, Bylsma said his team keeps its own stats on the checks delivered by the Penguins but don't track hits by the opposition.

He added that the numbers don't matter in the end. It is more about the tone set -- and he liked the tone his team set with its physical bite in Game 1.

"I think we had significantly more hits in first period than the rest of the game," Bylsma said. "I kind of like how we came out and played on our toes in the first, and played in the offensive zone and were at least able to get to our game -- especially in the first half of that period."

Pittsburgh's physicality, in fact, is somewhat of a secret weapon. With the skill on its roster, the Penguins are viewed by many as a finesse team, but they have the boppers on the blue line to do some damage and the willingness among their forwards to get in on the forecheck and try to create turnovers.

The winning goal, by Evgeni Malkin late in the first period, resulted from James Neal getting in hard on the forecheck, smearing Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen along the boards and kicking the puck to Chris Kunitz, who made a perfect cross-slot pass.

"We like to play like that and try to catch teams off guard," Neal said. "We are a fast team, we come hard and we can be physical. I hope we came out and put them back on their heels right away and I think we did that.

"That's a good thing, and we are going to continue to do that throughout this series. No one likes a team that comes out flying, that is all over them and can't get anything going because it definitely sets you back. I think you saw that last night."

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