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Pens Success on Penalty Kill is Driven by Teamwork and Collective Effort

by Mark Madden / 105.9 the X

This is the 52nd season for the Penguins franchise. It seems fanciful to say this is the team's best year ever when it comes to killing penalties.

It's also difficult to remember that unit ever doing better.

"It's teamwork. It's collective effort," said Coach Mike Sullivan after the PK went three-for-three in a 5-4 overtime loss to the visiting New York Islanders Nov. 19. "Guys are paying the price. They're working hard at it. I give the players a lot of credit. They've done a good job at it."

The numbers certainly speak well.

The Penguins' PK ranks second in the NHL with a success rate of 89.8 percent. The Penguins have given up just five power-play goals on the season while scoring four times short-handed.

That makes the Penguins, after 21 games, a mere minus-1 when playing a man down. That's astounding.

The last time the Pens surrendered a power-play tally was Oct. 23 at Tampa Bay. The PK has since gone 10 games without conceding, killing 23 penalties. The PK's best effort was a four-for-four night in a 7-1 home win over Philadelphia Oct. 29.

The Penguins have been short a mere 49 times, second-fewest in the league. Evgeni Malkin, who led the team in penalty minutes in each of the last three seasons, has committed just one minor in his 10 games this campaign.

The PK was razor-sharp in the first period of that loss to the Islanders. It killed two Islanders' PPs, barely affording the Isles zone entry. Zach Aston-Reese scored what appeared to be a shorthanded goal, but video review found the play to be offside.

"We were on the same page," said center Teddy Blueger concerning the Islanders' limited penetration. "Our angles and all the little details were there."

Blueger is one of the Pens' top penalty killers. Also seeing big duty upfront are Aston-Reese, Brandon Tanev, Bryan Rust, Jared McCann and Sam Lafferty. Jack Johnson, John Marino, Brian Dumoulin and Marcus Petterson anchor the PK at the back.

Aston-Reese, Rust, Tanev and Dumoulin have scored short-handed this season.

Knowing when to attack short-handed can be a risky decision. But, said Blueger, "Whenever you have an odd-man situation, you try to take advantage of it. A turnover or a good bounce, stuff like that."

"Your best penalty-killer has to be your goaltender." That's a long-time hockey adage. Goalies Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry have held up their part of the bargain. (Murray has allowed just two PPGs in 17 games.)

Blueger referred to the Penguins' goaltending during the penalty-kill, then added, "We're aggressive. We're on the same page and making good reads off each other. We just try to take away time and space from the opposition."

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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