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3 Impressions: Pens 3, Predators 0

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins assistant Gary Agnew shares his three observations from the bench of Saturday’s 3-0 win against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

1. First and foremost, the play of (Marc-Andre) Fleury. When you pitch a shutout anywhere it’s really solid, but a Saturday night in Nashville. They have a good offensive club, and he did a real solid job.
2. Special teams were great. A couple of power-play goals, a couple penalty kills. Happy with that.
3. For us, after what happened in Detroit, our commitment to playing away from the puck and making sure we put the game away properly with the 3-0 lead. A lot of guys did what they needed to do to get the job done, from blocking shots to clears.

Sam Kasan shares his three impressions from the media level.

 Much was made of the first head-to-head matchup between the Penguins and Predators since the Draft Day trade that brought Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to Pittsburgh and sent James Neal to Nashville.

Hornqvist and Spaling did what they do best. Crashed the net, created havoc for goalies and created chances. Hornqvist picked up an assist on the Penguins’ first goal. A nice video tribute was played on the jumbotron with Hornqvist and Spaling highlights as Predators as a thank you, a classy gesture by the Nashville organization.

Neal did not register a point (though he did hit two posts). He finished with two shots on goal. Though he did make a difference. In the third period and the Penguins leading 2-0, Neal took an offensive zone hooking penalty. Pittsburgh scored on the ensuing power play to make it a 3-0 contest and put the game out of reach.

Marc-Andre Fleury has an impressive track record against the Predators. He is now 6-2-1 lifetime against Nashville with a five-game winning streak, thought he didn’t have much to do in this one because of the superb defensive play in front of him. Pittsburgh held Nashville to very few great scoring chances. The Pens completely took away the middle of the ice and slot areas. The majority of the Predators chances came from the perimeter or around the goal line. Not the best locations to generate. Fleury made a spectacular glove save on Seth Jones late in the third period. He had to do a split to make the snag.

“We’ve been focused on it for a while. Some nights in the last few games we’ve left (the slot) open,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “We’re getting better. It’s a matter of your responsibilities when you come back defensively. We talked to our wingers about where they’re lined up.

“Nashville is a team that comes in wide and hit the slot with a lot of play, and I think we took that away tonight.”

The Pens have had a tendency this season to blow leads. The most recent such instance was losing a 3-1 lead against Detroit with less than three minutes left in regulation on Thursday night. That ended in a frustrating 4-3 overtime loss. However, Pittsburgh was able to finish off the Predators with a solid third period. Entering the final frame the Pens had a 1-0 lead, but built on that with two clutch power-play goals. They didn’t take their foot off the snake’s head this time and as a result, they weren’t bitten. It was a strong finish and something for the Pens to build upon.

“To give yourself that cushion and keep playing the right way is important,” said captain Sidney Crosby, who finished with a goal and two assists. “We played the right way. We didn’t sit back to play defensively. We played defense with our forecheck, getting sticks in lanes and forcing them to miss shots. That’s more our style of game.”

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