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Penguins rue inefficient line changes that led to goals

by Dan Rosen /

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins came into the Eastern Conference First Round knowing the New York Rangers are arguably the fastest team in the NHL and thrive on making quick passes out of the neutral zone to spring their forwards into odd-man rush situations.

The problem through three games is the Penguins have helped the Rangers do that with the occasional ill-timed and slow line change.

New York has scored two of its seven goals in the best-of-7 series on breakaways that are a result of those types of line changes, including left wing Carl Hagelin's goal that gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in Game 3 on Monday. They won the game 2-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Center Derek Stepan gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in Game 2 after right wing J.T. Miller hit him with a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone as the Penguins were changing.

Game 4 is Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, MSG).

"The Rangers have scored two goals off of poor line changes and we can't do that," Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "We know that this team has incredible speed and quick-strike play is something they're very good at. In three games they've gotten two goals and we need to correct that."

Lovejoy said the key to correcting it is having more awareness of where the puck is before they go off for a line change.

"We need to know that the puck is deep, know that they don't have the puck on their defenseman's stick when we're trying to change," he said. "We've done that twice and it's killed us both times."

What if it means staying on the ice even when they're tired and near the end of a shift?

"Especially," Lovejoy said. "We need to be disciplined. We need to suck that up. We talk from the bench, but if the puck is not fully deep and their defenseman is able to snap a puck up, we cannot change at that point."

An early change from defenseman Rob Scuderi and a slow change from left wing Chris Kunitz created the opening for Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle to hit Hagelin for his breakaway goal Monday.

"I got caught on a change. That falls on me," Scuderi said. "Ultimately it just comes down to making smart changes, making sure they don't have their heads up, and getting off the ice while the puck is going up the ice instead of when it's coming back."


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