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Stanley Cup Final

Coach's analysis: Penguins must be better in Game 2 of Final

Former NHL assistant Doug Lidster expects Pittsburgh to come out harder against Predators after winning opener

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 2014-17. He won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994 and with the Dallas Stars in 1999 during a 16-year NHL career, before turning to coaching.

Doug Lidster could picture exactly what was happening on the Pittsburgh Penguins' bench during the 37-minute stretch when they didn't get a single shot on goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

 

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"I can imagine the talk on the bench," he said. "It was like, 'Just keep going, guys. … We're up. We don't have to do anything fancy. Just stick in there. Just don't break. We can bend, but just don't break.' "

That was, in essence, what the Penguins did against the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena on Monday. They went up by three goals and allowed the Predators to tie the game before scoring twice for a 5-3 win that gave them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

In those difficult moments for the Penguins, Lidster has noted one person in particular, as least when he gets a glimpse of him on the TV broadcast: assistant Rick Tocchet.

"I've seen him kind of step in when there's been a little bit of conversation between the coach and the referee," Lidster said. "I've seen him smile and chuckle on the bench with the players and [keep] that atmosphere from getting too tight, loosening things up.

"I don't know what he's saying, of course, but when you see him I would think that his experience as a player and now with his experience as a coach, he knows what it takes."

For the Penguins as a whole, there's a simple takeaway, at least for Lidster.

"I think Pittsburgh's going to have to be better and I think they will be better," he said. "It seems like every series takes on its own persona and they had, I wouldn't say a tough time, but they took a little time adjusting last series against [the Ottawa Senators] and they will be better for Game 2 here."

Video: Guentzel's late goal lifts Pens past Preds in Game 1

There are, of course, more distractions for any team once it gets to the Stanley Cup Final, but that is where Pittsburgh's experience edge over the Predators should become notable. The Penguins have been through it before, winning the Stanley Cup last season. For the Predators, this is their first trip to the Final.

As for in-game adjustments, Lidster sees the Predators as a far different foe than the Senators were in the Eastern Conference Final, starting with the traffic created in front on the goal by P.K. Subban that was negated on an offside call in the first period.

"I think you're going to see a lot more of that in this series than you did with Ottawa," Lidster said. "Ottawa did a really good job of having numbers in front of the net. This team seems to have a little bit more flow to it. I think [the Penguins] are going to have to adjust.

"There's a lot of point play with Nashville. I know the power-play goal that Nashville scored was a D-to-D pass, but they like to go low-to-high and D-to-D and then have guys in front and their defensemen shooting the puck and getting it through, so I think Pittsburgh is going to have to make an adjustment there and do the best to cut down on those type of activities."

In the end, there is significant room for improvement for the Penguins after Game 1, when they came away with the victory but failed to play the game they wanted to play, getting a win on a combination of luck and some fortunate bounces.

Game 2, set for Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports) will be different.

"I think they're going to have to expect that Nashville's going to come a lot harder, but I expect Pittsburgh to go a lot harder too," Lidster said. "They'll be a lot better. I think they know they got away with one."

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