Penguins alter lines in advance of Game 7 against Capitals
Coach Mike Sullivan searching for spark, better puck possession in offensive zoneby Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent
CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was in teaching mode Tuesday.
After joining practice, Sullivan spent the next 45 minutes yelling orders, diligently writing on a white board and working with a few players during several drills.
What was a 3-1 lead against the Washington Capitals in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round has turned into a 3-3 tie with Game 7 at Verizon Center on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Pittsburgh had a lot to work on after losing Game 6 5-2 on Monday.
"I know we can be a whole lot better with our execution and the decisions we make with the puck," Sullivan said. "I don't think we've given ourselves the opportunity to establish the type of game that we want to play."
Sullivan will try to find a spark by altering the lines for a second straight game.
Video: Recapping Game 6 of the Capitals and Penguins
After reuniting the "HBK Line" of center Nick Bonino with left wing Carl Hagelin and right wing Phil Kessel for two periods during Game 6, Sullivan moved Kessel to right wing next to center Evgeni Malkin on Tuesday. Hagelin was moved to left wing on the fourth line, and Bonino remained at third-line center.
Forward Bryan Rust was promoted to first-line right wing next to center Sidney Crosby and left wing Jake Guentzel, who played on Malkin's line Monday.
Forward Carter Rowney skated on the fourth line after last playing in Game 4. Tom Kuhnhackl, who has played in each of Pittsburgh's 11 playoff games, likely will be a healthy scratch.
"We're trying to make our adjustments game to game to try to find some solutions to the challenges that we're faced with," Sullivan said. "Sometimes it's personnel based. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's tactical."
Regarding those tactics, Sullivan emphasized breaking out of the defensive zone and establishing puck possession in the offensive zone throughout practice. Even in their three wins against the Capitals, the Penguins have struggled to have much presence in the offensive end, which has led to a 200-134 shots on goal advantage for the Capitals through six games.
Video: PIT@WSH, Gm6: Sullivan addresses media after 5-2 loss
Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said several changes would have to be made for Pittsburgh to awaken in Game 7.
"I think we could've been better in just about every game we've played this series," Cole said. "I don't think it's just one thing. So we'll have to reassess what we want to do and go from there."
Pittsburgh has lost three straight games three times since Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston on Dec. 12, 2015. They never have lost three in a row in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Sullivan as coach.
Sullivan's success has gotten the Penguins to buy in to his teaching moments. That was the case again Tuesday.
"If we get pucks behind them, hopefully that can create odd-man rushes for us and back them off," defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. "We're learning. We've played this team six games now so there's a lot to learn. But also we know what each other is made up of right now. It's going to come down to who wants it more in this Game 7."
The Penguins would have liked to avoid playing a Game 7 for the first time since the 2016 Eastern Conference Final, when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning. But with that game looming, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said they might as well make the most of it.
"I think it will be exciting. It will be intense," Fleury said. "It's a big game."