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Penguins see need to test Lundqvist with more shots

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins preach getting an abundance of shots on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Penguins coach Mike Johnston pledged he expects 35 shots per game midway through the regular season. Pittsburgh had stretches when it met Johnston's expectation but often came up short, which the Penguins felt partially led to their lackluster offensive output as the season neared its end.

Three games into the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round Series against New York, not much has changed, and Pittsburgh trails 2-1. The Penguins had their first shot on goal in Game 3 at 15:10 of the first period, when defenseman Ben Lovejoy sent a slap shot on Lundqvist from center ice following a power play.

The Penguins cannot repeat their Game 3 performance if they wish to tie the series in Game 4 at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA2, MSG, ROOT).

"Last night, we talked about shots allowed," Johnston said Tuesday. "Anytime you go through the first 10 minutes, or 11 minutes, of the first period and don't get a shot, when you look at our shot attempts last night, we had 35 shot attempts that were blocked or missed. Those are the ones we have to get eight or nine of those to the net, for sure. You can't have 35 that are blocked or missed.

"Certainly, some teams block a lot of shots, but that's far too many. We had some early that were blocked or missed that could have given us some real momentum in the first 10 minutes. And then you miss them, and obviously, you're looking at the clock and you don't have any shots at the 10-minute mark."

Pittsburgh has one goal in each of its two losses, in Game 1 and Game 3, breaking out for four in its Game 2 win despite its lowest shot total of the three games. The Penguins have not surpassed 25 shots and have had a low of 22, which they don't think is nearly enough to test Lundqvist.

Simply throwing pucks toward the net is not the answer. There's a line between taking shots for the sake of taking shots and being a bit too careful while attempting to set up the perfect shot.

"It's a fine line, for sure," center Sidney Crosby said. "It's not something you try to flick a switch in the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]. It's something you work on all year. I thought we've done a pretty good job of that all year. Obviously, in the playoffs, things are tighter. Things happen quicker, so you have to make that decision much faster than you would in the regular season.

"So just identifying that. Making sure we maintain that same mindset. That's something we stress all year."

One change that could ignite the offense is moving forward Blake Comeau to the second line, next to Evgeni Malkin and David Perron. The addition of Comeau to the line seemed to propel Malkin's game in the third period, which could take pressure off the Penguins top line.

No other lineup changes for Pittsburgh are expected. Defenseman Derrick Pouliot (upper body) said he is beginning to feel better but there is no definite timetable for his return.

The line of Crosby centering right wing Patric Hornqvist and left wing Chris Kunitz has been responsible for four of Pittsburgh's six goals this series. Hornqvist leads the Penguins with 12 shots, including six in Game 3, when he scored his fourth playoff goal to cut New York's lead to 2-1 with 6:48 remaining in the third period.

After Kunitz cycled the puck to defenseman Ian Cole at the point, Hornqvist went to the front of the net and deflected Cole's slap shot past Lundqvist. He said Pittsburgh must create havoc around the New York crease if it hopes to score consistently.

"We can't just shoot for shooting pucks," Hornqvist said. "We have to make sure there's at least one guy in front of [Lundqvist]. If there's no one in front of him, we're not going to score on him. So we can't just shoot to shoot. Maybe from the corners, throw a few pucks at his feet early, but we have to make sure we have guys that are going there too."

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