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Pens work on simplification, power play

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Despite the 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 against Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Final, the Pens had a lot to like about their game. For one, they were able to successfully break through Ottawa's suffocating 1-3-1 neutral zone trap. Pittsburgh also logged a lot of offensive zone time and possession time. 

But there are two areas of their game that the Pens would like to improve upon heading into Game 2 on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena at 8 p.m.

One is shooting the puck. The Pens had several great chances to put the puck on the net, but instead looked for the extra pass. It's something that the coaching staff preached on Sunday morning, even using film to make their point.

"It's just heightened awareness and mindset to put the puck on the net," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "When we had our film session we showed them a number of different opportunities where we felt we could have put the puck on the net and chose not to.

"I think it's something that's crept into our game for the last few weeks and I think we have to simplify our game a little bit."

Putting pucks on the net isn't just about generating a shot or a scoring opportunity, but creating rebounds and breaking down defensive zone coverage.

"I've always been a believer that nothing breaks coverage like a shot on goal," Sullivan said. "It forces decision making. If there's hesitation or sometimes duplication of jobs, that's when an opportunity presents itself."

Pittsburgh would also like to convert on its power-play opportunities. The Pens went 0-for-5 on the man-advantage in Game 1, which included 45 seconds worth of a two-man advantage.

"It would have been nice to get one on that 5-on-3," defenseman Justin Schultz said. "We had a couple good looks, but we didn't execute it as well as we can and we need to be better for next game."

As Schultz noted, the power play did generated some good puck movement and scoring opportunities. The Pens just didn't finish. 

"Sometimes it doesn't work, but we need to support each other," center Evgeni Malkin said. "The next game we could have one or two chances. We need to help the team and score. Our power play is usually so much better."

Malkin suggested a tweak for the power play. Pittsburgh runs an umbrella look with Schultz at the mid-point and Malkin and Phil Kessel in the circles. The three of them dominate the flow of the puck. But there are opportunities down low.

"(The Senators) play with three guys on top and we control the puck on top," Malkin said. "We need to play a little bit lower, (Sidney Crosby) and (Patric Hornqvist) on the goal line. Maybe even behind the net. Something new.

"We always play the triangle with me, Schultz and Phil. They know. They play close to us. Sid and Hornqvist are open low. Maybe use Sid and Horny more for something different."

*The Pens practiced on Sunday afternoon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The only absences were forwards Hornqvist and Carter Rowney and defenseman Trevor Daley (lower-body).

Hornqvist and Rowney were given maintenance days and Daley skated earlier in the morning on his own, per Mike Sullivan.

*The Pens used the following workflow…

Guentzel-Crosby-Rust

Wilson-Cullen-Kuhnhackl

Kunitz-Malkin-Kessel

Hagelin-Bonino-Sheary

Cole-Ruhwedel

Maatta-Schultz

Dumoulin-Hainsey

Streit-Pouliot

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