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Stanley Cup Final

5 Keys: Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 3

Murray's poise, adjusting to Pacific Time Zone among Pittsburgh priorities against Sharks

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

SAN JOSE - The Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.

Here are five keys for the Penguins in Game 3:


This California trip marks the first time the Penguins have been out of the Eastern Time Zone since Jan. 18, when they played the St. Louis Blues. It's their first time in the Pacific Time Zone since a three-game California road trip from Dec. 1-6, when Mike Johnston was still their coach.

The change is a factor, especially considering the start time of Game 3. The Penguins have started all of their playoff games at 7 p.m. or later local time, but Game 3 is set for a 5 p.m. local time start.

Historically, the transition west has been difficult on the Eastern Conference team in the Cup Final. The Western Conference team has won 11 of the past 13 Cup Final games played in the Pacific Time Zone.

"I think the fact that we have the extra day in between is certainly helpful," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, referring to the two days off between Games 2 and 3. "We're trying to keep our guys on the same time schedule from a routine standpoint. I think our strength and conditioning guys, our medical staff, does a great job as far as making sure that we do everything within our power to help them nutritionally and otherwise so that they can recover properly and fuel their bodies the right way. We're doing everything within our power to try to meet that challenge."


The Penguins are 0-for-5 on the power play against the Sharks. They have looked hesitant, like they've been caught in between, shooting when they should be passing and passing when they should be shooting.

Pittsburgh has managed eight shots on goal, including four on its past four power plays. Evgeni Malkin has two power-play shots; Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel each have one.

"I feel like we've definitely had our chances," Crosby said. "We've had opportunities but we've got to find ways. When there are going to be a low number of power plays you've got to find ways to make them count."

The Penguins made a small change to their first power-play unit in practice on Friday in an effort to do just that.

Chris Kunitz took Patric Hornqvist's spot in front of the net. Kunitz has played that role before on the first unit, so it wasn't exactly shocking to see him there, but it did show that the Penguins are not content with the status quo on the power play.

The difference between them is Kunitz is a lefty and Hornqvist is a righty.

"It can change some of the looks that we're trying to show," Sullivan said.

Maybe that will be enough of a curveball to get the Penguins out of their power-play funk. They are 0-for-10 in the past three games and 1-for-16 in the past five.


Video: SJS@PIT, Gm2: Murray makes stop, preserves Pens' lead

For argument's sake, let's say the Sharks use the energy from their home crowd, get off to a fast start and attack early. Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray is going to have to make some saves, probably more than he had to make in the first period in either of the first two games.

How Murray handles himself if the Sharks are buzzing will be key. He has shown remarkable composure throughout this playoff run, so there is no reason to think that won't continue, unless you buy into the pressure that's created in a road game in the Cup Final.

Murray said he keeps his composure by keeping his breath in the big moments.

"The biggest thing for me is just kind of focusing on your breathing, I think that brings you back to being in the moment," Murray said. "That's something I do a lot, something I work on a lot. It's something so simple. You think, 'Can that really have anything to do with it?' It definitely helps. As soon as you start thinking too much, you start getting too far ahead of yourself, you kind of come back to that, focus on your breathing, take a deep breath, realize where you are, realize the moment you're in. That's probably the biggest thing that I do."


The Sharks spoke extensively on Friday about the need for better breakouts, and how the gap between the defensemen and forwards has to shrink from where it has been in the series in order to get it.

Even if the Sharks adjust, the Penguins still have to disrupt breakouts by staying aggressive on the forecheck. They've done that through two games by being faster and winning loose puck battles. They've been faster in the neutral zone, which has led to turnovers and rush chances the other way.

If the Penguins are faster on the forecheck, the gap between the Sharks defensemen and forwards shouldn't make a difference.

"When we do have our success for full periods, stretches of time, it's when our forecheck is successful," center Nick Bonino said. "That's when we're turning pucks over."

5. "HBK"

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Pittsburgh's third line featuring Bonino, Kessel and Carl Hagelin has created matchup problems for San Jose, similar to what the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning experienced in earlier rounds.

Ideally, with the last-change advantage on home ice, DeBoer should be able to get the matchups he wants to negate the effectiveness of that line. But it can be pick your poison because of how good the "HBK Line" has been in this series and in the playoffs.

It's still possible, even with the Sharks having the last-change advantage, the "HBK Line" will see favorable matchups against San Jose's third defense pair of Roman Polak and Brenden Dillon. It's also possible DeBoer will choose to treat the "HBK Line" as a second line and match the defense pair featuring Brent Burns and Paul Martin against them. But that would theoretically open space for Evgeni Malkin to do more damage.

The bottom line is the more effective the "HBK Line" is in Game 3, the less effective the Sharks' last-change advantage will be.

"It just forces decisions and that's the whole game of matching lines and how much you want to do it," Crosby said.

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