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Berube: Penguins defense slowing down Capitals

Washington offense needs to be more aggressive in Game 3

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, has enlisted the help of Craig Berube to break down the action. Berube will be checking in throughout the series.

Berube, 50, was the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2013-15. He was a Flyers' assistant coach for six seasons prior to being promoted to coach on Oct. 7, 2013. The Flyers were 75-58-28 under Berube. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the Rangers in the first round in 2014.

Forget that Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin hasn't scored a goal in two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The fact that he has been held to seven shots on goal in the Eastern Conference Second Round is what jumps out to former NHL coach Craig Berube.

"That's a real telltale sign right there with what's going on offensively with their team," Berube said Sunday, the day after the Penguins evened the best-of-7 series at 1-1 with a 2-1 win in Game 2. "Only seven shots in the series for him, that's a low number."

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm2: Murray halts pressure, goal waved off

The Capitals have been outshot 80-59 through the first two games, including 35-24 in Game 2. The Penguins also have a 156-130 advantage in total shot attempts, including special teams; it was 79-54 in Game 2.

Washington won Game 1 because of T.J. Oshie's opportunistic hat trick, with two of the goals coming directly off of Pittsburgh turnovers. The Penguins tightened up and smartened up in Game 2, and held the Capitals to 10 shots on goal through 40 minutes.

Game 3 is at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). Berube said the Capitals will need to manage the puck better if they plan on winning it.

"I think that the Caps are a good puck-possession team," Berube said. "Watching them throughout the year, they make a lot of good plays and they've got a lot of skill players, but right now they're not doing a good job with the puck. They need to do a better job with the puck. They need the puck and they need to do something more with it."

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm2: Murray lays out for tremendous save

To do it, Berube said the Capitals need to have a more aggressive approach. He didn't want to go as far as to say they've been guilty of sitting back, but felt they have been flat.

"They don't look like the Caps we've been watching throughout the year, where they want to get going and get forechecking, attacking, and being a determined team offensively," Berube said. "That's when they're tough to stop."

The Penguins deserve credit for taking the Capitals out of their game plan. Washington wants to attack with a heavy forecheck to create opportunities; the Penguins aren't letting them because they're retrieving pucks well and quickly clearly their zone.

"They're also being aggressive in defending," Berube said. "They've got people right on you. They're doing a good job of blocking shots and getting their stick on pucks."

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm2: Murray denies Oshie's backhander

Berube put the pressure on the Capitals top two lines, featuring Ovechkin, Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson. Yes, Oshie had a hat trick in Game 1, but being opportunistic and being the better team are different things.

"Their top players have to pick it up," Berube said. "That's who you rely on and they're the ones that have to set the tempo and get their opportunities." 

Berube expects that to happen in Game 3. 

"They definitely haven't played as good as they can," Berube said. "I expect their best game in Game 3. They have to come out and really take it to the Penguins. They need to get a good forecheck, get physical, but create something off the forecheck. Get the puck, get some shots, get some people at the net and get some second and third opportunities around the net."

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