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Stanley Cup Final

Coach's analysis: Penguins need more from Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel

Former NHL assistant Doug Lidster says Pittsburgh must get offensive contribution from star forwards in Game 5 of Final against Predators

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Doug Lidster to break down the action. Lidster will be checking in throughout the series.

Lidster, 56, was an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks from 2014-17. He won a Stanley Cup with the 1994 New York Rangers and one with the 1999 Dallas Stars during a 16-year NHL career, before turning to coaching.

The Pittsburgh Penguins scored one goal each in losses to the Nashville Predators in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. In Game 3 forward Jake Guentzel scored, and in Game 4 it was center Sidney Crosby. There were no goals by center Evgeni Malkin or forward Phil Kessel, and no depth scoring.

But entering Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), the Penguins need scoring, and they need contributions from the other two members of their Big Three, as Lidster sees it.

"They need to get a little bit more production down the lineup," he said. "I thought Crosby was just terrific [Monday]. I think they need to get Malkin back going here, Malkin and Kessel."

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Penguins series coverage | Key questions for Penguins heading to Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final]

 

That might have been easier when the Penguins had center Nick Bonino in the lineup to balance the lines. But Bonino has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, leaving Pittsburgh without a key part of its depth, crucial to its hope of winning the Stanley Cup for the second straight year.

"They were able to do that earlier in the series when Bonino was in the lineup," Lidster said. "Right now it's imperative, especially on the road, if they can pressure the top four Nashville defenders by having a third and fourth line come out after power plays and be able to create some offensive zone time and take away the opportunity for them to match up as much as they can on the road."

Why weren't Malkin and Kessel their usual selves in Games 3 and 4?

"That's a good question," Lidster said. "It was both a very tight-checking game, and yet there were breakaways and there were odd-man rushes. It's hard to fight for that ice night after night after night when you're always matched up against the other team's best defenders. Sometimes it's incumbent on the other guys to find a way to get it done."

Malkin has scored twice in this series, the Penguins' first goal in their 5-3 win in Game 1 and their last goal in their 4-2 victory in Game 2.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Malkin goes bar-down to pad lead

Kessel has yet to score in the Stanley Cup Final. His last goal was against the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, seven games ago.

Crosby, on the other hand, was excellent in Game 4 in Lidster's opinion, with his line generating scoring chances and making up for some of the lack of production by his teammates.

"I thought he was terrific," Lidster said. "I thought it might have been his best game of the Final so far. He's really competing out there, but you have to have other guys that are pulling the rope too."

Lidster also said he was impressed by Penguins coach Mike Sullivan's decision to use a coach's challenge to review a goal by Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok at 14:51 of the first period for goaltender interference.

Video: Situation Room: Jarnkrok's goal stands after review

Sullivan lost the challenge and the goal counted, but Lidster saw positive ramifications for the Penguins, who tied the score 1:06 later on Crosby's goal.

"Clearly it was an opportunity there for that to get [called] back, but what I really liked about it was it also took the crowd out of it," Lidster said. "It took an awful long time to look at it, and shortly after, there was a commercial timeout. So they never really got any momentum there."

Crosby's goal left the game tied entering the second period. But the Predators scored twice in the second and took control.

The Penguins need to continue to play to their strengths, Lidster said, utilizing Malkin and Kessel.

"[The Penguins'] strength is in the speed of their forwards," Lidster said. "I think that they need to get speed back into their game. There were a couple of shifts there early on in the second period where I thought Pittsburgh did a really good job. There was the one Crosby just got it in deep, pressured the puck and threw it to Guentzel in front.

"That's their bread and butter and they have to stick with that. It gives them offensive zone time, it takes pressure off their defense, puts pressure on the Nashville defense. So getting those pucks behind Nashville defenders, that's going to be key for them. That's their M.O. They have to continue to do that to be effective."

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