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Conference Final

Coach's analysis: Penguins created chances with faceoff success

Former NHL assistant Doug Lidster says Pittsburgh controlled play in Game 2 against Senators

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, has enlisted the help of Doug Lidster to break down the action from the Penguins' perspective. Lidster will be checking in throughout the series.

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

There was no question the Pittsburgh Penguins, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, were going to come back with more push and more pressure in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final after losing Game 1 to the Ottawa Senators. It was what former NHL assistant Doug Lidster had expected from the Penguins on Monday, and it was what he saw once they took the ice, especially from center Sidney Crosby.

Crosby did not have his best performance in Game 1, struggling especially on faceoffs. But that was reversed in Game 2, when he and center Matt Cullen -- along with the solid, steady, composed play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury -- helped defeat the Senators 1-0 to tie the best-of 7 series 1-1 with Game 3 at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Video: The guys discuss Phil Kessel's impact

"All the story is [center Evgeni] Malkin and [forward Phil] Kessel barking back and forth at each other, but to me I thought the story was the opposite of that, and that was how the rest of the team [played]," Lidster said. "I thought Cullen and Sid were really good, just going about their business, just going out there shift after shift and not getting distracted by that. To me, that was probably as big a factor, if not bigger."

In terms of faceoffs, Crosby won 12 of 31 (39 percent) in Game 1, before bouncing back to go 14 of 21 (67 percent) in Game 2. Cullen went from 6 of 11 (55 percent) to 11 of 13 (85 percent).

"It started on the faceoffs," Lidster said of Crosby. "You knew he was going to figure it out and he was way better on the faceoffs, especially in the offensive zone."

That helped create chances for the Penguins, in ways that hadn't been there in Game 1; more pressure needed to be put on Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, with more second-chance opportunities and work done around the net.

But it wasn't bad in Game 2, especially in the second period and into the third, when the Penguins held the Senators without a shot on goal for 18:53, repeatedly solving the Ottawa defensive system.

"The goal that they scored (by Kessel with 6:55 remaining in the third period), that's what I meant about generating speed and getting some late speed," Lidster said. "I think that they were trying that before, they tried dumping the puck, especially early in the game. They got pucks in deep and created a little bit of forecheck.

"But to me, the other thing they did really well was they pushed back. [Senators defenseman Dion] Phaneuf had a couple big hits, [Senators forward Mike] Hoffman took [defenseman Justin] Schultz out of the game with a big hit. But then Pittsburgh started pushing back."

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm2: Fleury, Maatta, Sullivan on Game 2 win

There was emotion. There were scrums. There was a challenge to the visitors, with the Penguins starting to assert themselves in their building. Some took that as frustration. Lidster, on the other hand, took it as a good sign for Pittsburgh.

That should continue in Game 3, when the Senators will try to continue to assert their defensive style of play, something the Penguins will need to be aware of. That comes into particular focus, given the situation Pittsburgh has on defense, with Kris Letang (neck surgery) out for the postseason, Trevor Daley (lower body) having missed the past three games, and Schultz (upper body) injured in Game 2.

"They played almost a whole game with five defensemen," Lidster said. "They've done it before, so they can rally behind that. … As long as they keep the pressure on Ottawa, and play in the offensive zone, I think that that will help and they've shown that they can do that. That's going to be a key factor for them.

"Territorial play is going to be big here in the next little while. Ottawa is going to want to put pressure on a depleted Pittsburgh team and Pittsburgh's going to want to take the pressure off their defense and play in the offensive zone. So moving the puck up and getting it up into the offensive zone is going to be real key."

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