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Pens' opportunistic play leads to 2-0 series lead

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

If you crack the door for the Pens, they'll kick down the whole darn thing. 

That's exactly what happened when Pittsburgh, despite being outshot 36-24 and outplayed for a lot of Game 2 on Saturday night at Verizon Center, managed to convincingly defeat Washington, 6-2.

It wasn't the Pens' best game. There's no doubt the Capitals were the better team throughout long stretches of the contest, particularly the first two periods.

But all that matters in the end is scoring goals. The Pens scored more on their fewer

opportunities and now have a 2-0 series lead as the setting shifts to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

That's hockey.

"This group finds ways to have success," head coach Mike Sullivan said of his team. "When the opportunities do present themselves, these guys take advantage.

"When we get high-quality opportunities, that's when we believe our quick-strike capability is at its best. We were able to take advantage of a few chances tonight that helped us win the game."

The Pens were outshot 16-5 in the first period, but escaped unscathed with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury slamming the door and stopping all 16 pucks. Fleury was brilliant throughout the game, making 34 saves. In fact, Fleury has stopped 59 of 62 shots in the first two games of this Second Round.

"He's been our best player," head Sullivan said. "I don't know what else I can say. … He's really risen to the challenge."
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, the Pens posted three goals on their first 13 shots and chased reigning Vezina-winning goaltender Braden Holtby after two periods of play. Even though the Pens only had a 3-1 lead at the time.

It seemed an odd move of desperation. Washington coach Barry Trotz rationalized the move thus:

"I was trying to change the mojo," he said. "I thought some of the goals (Holtby) wasn't as sharp as he can be for us. He's a game-changer for us. When he didn't change the game, I just looked to change the mojo, that's all."

The biggest difference between the Pens and Caps this series has been Pittsburgh's opportunistic conversion rate. Washington may have dominated in shots and scoring chances, but the Pens scored timely goals on their fewer opportunities.

"Our team didn't start well (tonight)," said rookie Jake Guentzel, who scored two goals in the game and leads the team with seven in the playoffs. "When our team (can be opportunistic), that's huge for us."

The Capitals have to be thinking, "What else can we possibly do to beat this team?" Washington smothered the Pens throughout most of the game. But…

No team is better at taking punches and rebounding like the Pens. They know how to handle momentum swings and respond better than any team in the league.

The Capitals found that out last season. And they're being reminded of it right now.

"We've got a gritty group. They're scrappy," Sullivan said. "It's a never-say-die attitude. It's not perfect by any stretch. We're aware of that and we know that. But what I love about this group of players is they respond the right way."

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