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Stanley Cup Final

Coach's analysis: Pressure key for Penguins against Predators in Game 3

Former NHL assistant Doug Lidster says Pittsburgh must keep heat on during 'do-or-die' game for Nashville

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, NHL.com 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 2014-2017. He won the Stanley Cup with the 1994 New York Rangers and the 1999 Dallas Stars during a 16-year NHL career before turning to coaching.

 

It was nearing the final seconds of a Pittsburgh Penguins power play in the first period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, a cross-checking infraction called on Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi at 14:32, when Doug Lidster noted something.

 

[RELATED: Penguins expect power play improvement in Game 3 | Coach's analysis: Predators should remain confident in Rinne]

 

He was sitting next to University of Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson in the stands at PPG Paints Arena. The pair was talking about how Pittsburgh really needed to shoot the puck. 

"A fan over at the right-hand side said, 'Put it at the net, put it at the net,'" Lidster recalled. "Right at the end of the power play, they put it at the net and [Jake] Guentzel got his first goal. So maybe the fans do know what's going on."

Lidster, who added that Pittsburgh has a very knowledgeable fan base, couldn't have been more in agreement. He believed, too, that the Penguins needed to be better at putting pucks on Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, something they did not do for 37:09 straight in Game 1, and which they did not do enough early in Game 2.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Guentzel buries a rebound for second

But then they scored that goal, an even-strength score at 16:36 of the first, and went on to take control of the game in a spurt at the start of the third period. 

"I think that that was really noticeable that when Pittsburgh did put pucks to the net, they created a lot in the second period," Lidster said. "They got away from that a little bit, they didn't get a lot of shots on net. Then the key part of the game was the first 10 seconds of the third period when it was [Bryan] Rust passed it off the goalie's pads and they got their second one, and then they just got going.

"It's a simple game plan, but it's effective for them. I think that it really plays into their talent level because they do have snipers and it doesn't have to be perfect plays for them to score."

After Guentzel's second goal of the game 10 seconds into the third, the Penguins added goals by Scott Wilson at 3:13 and Evgeni Malkin at 3:28 of the period. That was enough for Pittsburgh to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, which continues with Game 3 at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). 

But the backbone of the win, at least in Lidster's eyes, wasn't the offensive firepower demonstrated. It was the man in net.

"I was really impressed with [Matt] Murray [Wednesday] night," Lidster said. "I thought he was terrific. He was solid in net and he never looked like he had to scramble at all. He looked so in tune, so zeroed in on what he had to do. When [forward Cody] McLeod ran him over there in the net, he didn't let that get him rattled and I thought he was the best player on the ice."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Murray flashes the leather on Josi

Murray allowed one goal on 38 shots in Game 2. He made 18 saves in the first period and 14 more in the second.

Going forward, Lidster noted that the Penguins will have to continue to put pressure on the Predators defensemen, especially heading to Nashville for Games 3 and 4.

"I thought the one thing that they did well was they pressured Nashville's D," Lidster said. "Nashville has a good set of defensemen, they did a good job. I thought [Mattias] Ekholm, they were in Ekholm's kitchen quite a bit. They got on him, they wore them down. 

"I looked at the ice time; I think they're getting a little bit tired. [The Predators are] going with four defensemen quite a bit and [the Penguins] need to continue to pressure them. That's the key to their offense, generated from the defense."

Ultimately, the Penguins need to keep the heat on Saturday. They need to withstand everything that the Predators will hand out, and it will be quite a bit.

"This is a do-or-die game for Nashville," Lidster said. "They can't afford to go down 3-0 to the defending champs, so whether you storm the first few minutes in a building that's proven to be particularly tough, especially in the playoffs, is going to be key. They don't want to get down. They want to try and stay patient and stay in there early and play for their breaks.

"The enthusiasm in Pittsburgh was great for them. Now Nashville has that on their side and you want to try and take that crowd out of it as quickly as you can. They know what to expect. They've been in that atmosphere before and it's showing. They're really dialed in now. That frustration they had early on in the [Ottawa] Senators series, I don't see it at all."

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