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5 Keys: Penguins at Lightning, Game 3

Pittsburgh hoping for more from Malkin; Tampa Bay's Stralman expects to be better

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

TAMPA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.

Here are 5 keys for Game 3:

1. PUCK POSSESSION

The Lightning were supposed to be the better possession team in the series, but the Penguins had the puck a lot more in building a lopsided 139-85 advantage in shot attempts in all situations in the first two games. Although the Penguins can burn teams on rush plays on the counterattack, which they did twice for goals in their 3-2 overtime win in Game 2, they also are putting a lot of pressure on the Lightning's defense and controlling play in the offensive zone.

The Lightning want to get back to doing that more after sitting back and defending too much in the first two games.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm1: Hornqvist nets Crosby's nifty feed

"We've got to take it away a little sooner, defend a little quicker and try to get the puck back so we're not gassed when we finally get it," Lightning center Brian Boyle said Wednesday. "Then we can go in and we can make some plays and we can get some [offensive] zone time that way."

2. LAST CHANGE

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was able to utilize having the last line change on home ice in Game 2 by getting Sidney Crosby away from the Lightning's third line, centered by Boyle, for some shifts. With Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper having the last change for the next two games, expect him to try to get Boyle, along with the defense pair of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, on the ice against Crosby as much as possible.

But Sullivan said being on the road is not going to change anything in the Penguins game plan.

"We have a comfort level that our guys can play against anybody," Sullivan said. "Will we try to get certain matchups? Yes we will, but we have a comfort level that our guys can play."

3. MALKIN'S TURN

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm1: Bishop stones Malkin, freezes the puck

Crosby ended his eight-game goal drought by scoring in overtime in Game 2, and the Penguins' third and fourth lines produced goals in Game 2. Now it's time for Evgeni Malkin to step up after going six consecutive games without a point.

Malkin had some quality scoring chances among his seven shots on goal in Game 1 but was quieter in Game 2. His best moments came during the two second-period shifts he had playing left wing on Crosby's line. With the Lightning able to dictate the matchups more on home ice, it doesn't appear likely Sullivan will put Malkin and Crosby together full-time, but he might pick his spots again.

4. A SHARPER STRALMAN

Stralman understandably was rusty in returning from a fractured left fibula in Game 2. It was his first game since March 25 and it showed when he was caught out of position on the Penguins' first goal and Crosby's overtime goal. Having a game under his belt at playoff speed should help Stralman and the Lightning in Game 3.

"I knew kind of what it was going to be like," Stralman said, "and it definitely took a little bit of an adjustment in the beginning just to take in all the information on the ice and make good reads and all that stuff. It's just one game. I hope it will be better than that [Wednesday]."

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm2: Stralman finishes great feed in return

5. MURRAY'S RESPONSE

Sullivan appeared to be one goal away from replacing 21-year-old rookie goaltender Matt Murray with veteran Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3. But Murray was able battle through after a rough first period and get the win.

Murray hasn't been stopping the puck as cleanly for several games now, but the Lightning haven't tested him a lot so far, totaling 41 shots on goal in the first two games. How will Murray handle it if the Lightning pressure him more? And how long of a leash will Sullivan give him?

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