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Pens working to get power play clicking

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville due to their power play's inability to produce. 

The Pens, who still hold a 2-1 series lead, took an early 1-0 lead on Jake Guentzel's NHL-leading 13th goal of the postseason just 2:46 minutes into the game. Two minutes later the Pens went on the power play and had a chance to extend their lead.

Despite generating some great opportunities, the Pens failed to score on that power play. They also failed on another attempt later in the first period. Pittsburgh let those chances to step on Nashville's throat slip away and the Predators came roaring back with five unanswered goals en route to a 5-1 win.

"The first power play was really good. We had some really good looks. We almost scored," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought the second power play was not as good. I thought it gave Nashville a bit of a boost."

If Pittsburgh's power play woes were an isolated incident - say just one game - it wouldn't be an issue. But through the first three games of the Final the Pens are 1-for-14 with just four total shots. And that lone man-advantage goal came on a five-on-three for Pittsburgh.

"It's the first time in my career that we can't score on so many chances and we're not shooting the puck," said Evgeni Malkin, who has the Pens' lone power-play goal of the series. "We need to change something. I don't know.

"It's not working. We need to change. Maybe players, I don't know. But it's tough to say right now. But I know we played bad on the power play."

One major factor in Nashville's penalty killing success has been its aggressive nature and tendency to pressure the puck handler. The Preds force the puck carrier to make a quick decision, and sometimes it leads to the wrong decision.

"They like to pressure us, they play quick and we talked before the game, control the puck and use each other," Malkin said. "I have the puck for like one second. They jump on me. I try my best. I think we all try our best. But they play very well. Still, we need to change something."
The Pens' power play has dealt with pressuring penalty kill units throughout the season and still managed to finish ranked No. 3 overall in the NHL during the regular season with a 23.1-percent success rate.

"They're an aggressive penalty kill, so sometimes it's not always going to be perfect," captain Sidney Crosby said. "You're waiting for that one chance where they're overaggressive or you make a play past a couple guys and generate one chance. Sometimes it's got to be that way.

"It's just going to be that one play and we've got to make sure that we're patient and we execute until we get it. Once we do, we've got to put it in the back of the net."

With Pittsburgh's star-studded talented there is a temptation to make the perfect play. But when that isn't working, simplification is the key. And that means simply putting more shots on net.

"We still have to find a way to create more shots," Patric Hornqvist said. "That's when coverage breaks down, with a shot and then seams open. It doesn't matter if it's a power play or 5-on-5 or 4-on-4. We just have to get shots and get those second and third pucks and hold onto them."
With the Pens' talent, the team believes that it's just a matter of time before they find the right formula.

"We've got to find a way to have more success," Sullivan said. "We've got capable people. These guys are real good players. They've been good for us all year long, all playoffs long. I know they're going to be a difference here for us moving forward.

"It's been a little bit of a struggle early on here. But we believe in these guys."

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