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Stanley Cup

Penguins expect improvement on power play against Predators in Game 3

Pittsburgh looks to break through on man-advantage after going 0-for-7 in Game 2

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The numbers that show up on the score sheet make the Pittsburgh Penguins power play in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday appear to look quite bad. That would be 0-for-7 with two shots on goal and two shots-against.

The Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series going into Game 3 at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), but those power-play numbers don't present a good look for Pittsburgh.

"I know we can play better," center Evgeni Malkin said.

 

[RELATED: Coach's analysis Guentzel changed tone of Game 2 | Hainsey making most of first trip to Final]

 

True, but a deeper dive into their power play, into the other numbers coaches look at, show an effectiveness to give the Penguins something to build off for Game 3, even if they didn't convert in Game 2.

"I thought the power play was pretty good as far as the entries were concerned," coach Mike Sullivan said.

The Penguins had 14 clean zone entries in their 11:26 of power-play time. Nashville cleared the puck down the ice 28 times, but Pittsburgh was still able to get it back and get moving through the neutral zone with speed to get into the zone safely enough times to be a threat.

"As far as in our in-zone time, we had some opportunities," Sullivan said. "I thought we did a pretty good job as far as using the perimeter of the rink to get into the look we wanted to get into."

The Penguins did have a lot of puck and body movement on the perimeter. They passed the puck around well in the zone and had the Predators penalty-killers on the move.

The sustained zone time they had at the end of their third power play resulted in forward Jake Guentzel's first goal of the game four seconds after the man-advantage expired.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Guentzel threads a rebound by Rinne

The Predators had four players in the defensive zone when Guentzel scored.

In addition, a clean entry and zone time led to forward Patric Hornqvist's near power-play goal in the third period. It was taken off the board by a successful coach's challenge for offside by the Predators. If center Matt Cullen kept his skate on the ice on the entry, it would have counted.

However, there is a reason the Penguins went 0-for-7.

"It's just a matter of execution," Sullivan said. "We've just got to get more pucks to the net when we have opportunities to shoot the puck."

They had the two shots and seven total shot attempts. Credit for some of that has to go to the Predators' penalty-killers, who are doing a good job once the Penguins set up in the zone. Nashville's 28 clears in Game 2, an average of more than two per minute on the penalty kill, were effective.

"We always talk about that so that always kills the clock down," Predators center Colton Sissons said. "Besides that, I think we're just in really good positions and not giving them really Grade A looks and Grade A chances, keeping some shots to the outside and just keeping shot totals down in general."

The Penguins, though, helped the Predators in that cause Wednesday. They passed up opportunities to shoot multiple times, starting with the first rush on their first power play, when forward Phil Kessel had a lane from the right circle but tried to feather a pass to center Sidney Crosby cutting in from the left side.

"We need to learn," Malkin said. "We need to watch TV [Thursday] or after and we need to talk together. It's not fun because it's very important. Each power play, if we [don't] score we need to shoot the puck to [the] net and play hard. I think we play a little bit casual. We try to give each other [a] good pass, but it's not working."

It didn't hurt the Penguins in Game 2. That's the good news. But a better overall power play in Game 3, combining everything necessary, could be a factor in solving the Predators in their own building, where they are 7-1 with 13 goals-against in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I know our power play will be better," Sullivan said. "It wasn't at its best [Wednesday] night, but these guys have been so good for us throughout this whole regular season and the playoffs. The power play has won a lot of games for us here. They're going to be important for us."

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