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Special Teams Key Victories

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
With six of Pittsburgh’s last eight games being decided by two or less goals, special teams have been the difference in the Penguins’ recent 7-0-1 unbeaten streak.

Pittsburgh’s penalty kill has been unstoppable, especially in crucial situations. In Friday’s 2-1 win over Ottawa, the Penguins killed off all three Senators power plays to hold onto the lead. This came one game after the Penguins stymied a pair of third-period Buffalo power plays on Wednesday to hold onto a 1-0 victory.

Pittsburgh has the NHL’s third-best penalty kill this season, and hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in 11 of their last 13 contests. Their PK unit has denied 50 of the last 52 penalties (96.2 percent), including a current streak of 25 straight kills.

Forward Pascal Dupuis, one of the team’s best penalty killers, credited goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for being the catalyst behind the team’s shorthanded success. Fleury made a season-high 43 saves on Friday and made 30 saves on Wednesday en route to nabbing his first shutout of the season.

“Your goalie has to be your best penalty-killer out there, and he is right now,” Dupuis said.

But Dupuis was also quick to credit the four skaters in front of Fleury, saying the team takes pride in their penalty kill.

“Fleury’s making some key saves, guys are blocking shots. It’s all about dedication and wanting to pay the price, battling hard and blocking shots.”

It relieves some of the pressure when the Penguins’ power play has been improving and complementing the PK. Both goals in Friday’s 2-1 win over Ottawa were tallied with the man-advantage. The Penguins also notched a pair of first-period power-play goals in Monday’s 3-2 defeat of the Florida Panthers.

“I do think we’re executing better right now,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “On our entries, we’re setting up and we have movement and motion with an attack mentality. Shots are going at the net and we’re retrieving pucks. We did a pretty good job of that the last four or five games. The power play was great.”

Forward Tyler Kennedy, who factored into both power-play goals with two assists on Friday, said it best.

“I think if we beat them on the special teams, we usually win hockey games,” he said. “We’re doing pretty good right now so we have to keep it going.”
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