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Conference Final

Coach's analysis: Penguins must stick with blueprint against Senators

Former NHL assistant Doug Lidster says Pittsburgh needs to stay in attack mode to keep momentum going entering Game 6

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. 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 1994 New York Rangers and with the 1999 Dallas Stars during a 16-season NHL career, before turning to coaching. 

This was the Pittsburgh Penguins that everyone was waiting to see, with scoring depth and forward pressure and speed.

At least that's the way former NHL assistant Doug Lidster looked at the Penguins' 7-0 win against the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday.

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. Game 6 is in Ottawa on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I thought Pittsburgh was just terrific," Lidster said. "It was tight-checking, both teams early, and I thought the Pittsburgh forwards were just tenacious. They took away time and space from all the Ottawa players, their [defensemen] were up in the play and then caused that first turnover. And the first goal [was important], just to get feeling good about yourself and to change the outlook, the game plan for Ottawa."

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm5: Maatta blasts one-timer past Anderson

Getting behind early caused the Senators to open their system and get away from the tight style they like to play. That made the difference for the Penguins.
It started with some of their forwards who had not been forces earlier in the series. Lidster specifically mentioned center Nick Bonino, whose line Lidster believed especially was effective during Game 5.
"All of a sudden now you've got a little bit more depth in the forward groups, a little bit more speed going there, and that's tough for a team to handle when you have to start worrying about the stars but you also have to worry about scoring coming from all parts of the lineup," Lidster said. "And that's what Pittsburgh does really well."

It certainly was what the Penguins did very well in Game 5, with defensemen Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley, and forwards Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel, each scoring.

Lidster noted that while the Penguins looked a bit tired earlier in the series, they've looked better in Games 4 and 5. 

"There was a switch there," he said. "There was a definite switch there."

Now the Senators have to answer in Game 6.

"It's not like the series is over by any means," Lidster said. "Ottawa has shown remarkable ability to bounce back too. They didn't have a good game [Sunday]. They're only two games away from making it to the Final, two wins away from making it to the Final, so they're going to come out hard."

But Pittsburgh really just has to do more of the same, putting on more pressure, getting more pucks to the net and skating the way they can. Lidster said their puck management in Game 5 was outstanding and needs to stay near that level in Game 6. 

"They scored a couple goals where they had a couple line changes, just by creating some offense on the cycle, moving the puck up and down, tired guys getting off and fresh guys getting on," he said. "I thought their puck possession game was terrific and they were getting some traffic and were causing havoc in front of the net."

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm5: Penguins overwhelm Sens for third goal

Creating traffic in front of the Ottawa net also needs to remain a high priority for Pittsburgh in Game 6. 

"I absolutely think so," Lidster said. "That's their M.O. That's how they play. The strength of their team is their forwards, I believe. They have excellent goaltending and their defense is solid … but their strength is to be an attack-oriented team and to be on their toes."

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