Rapid Recap: Special Teams Ignite Pens in Game One

Staying out of the penalty box will be paramount in Ottawa coach Paul Maclean’s game plan for Game Two on Friday night in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins were 2-4 with the man advantage, which helped them inch, ever so slowly, to another series victory.

Oh yeah, something else Paul Maclean might want to address is how to generate more offense on his own power play. Ottawa put up a goose egg in that category, going 0-5.

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Pascal Dupuis scores a short-handed goal against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Which means that Pittsburgh was a perfect 5-5 on the penalty kill. Add to that Pascal Dupuis’ short-handed goal in the third period, the proverbial nail in the Senators’ coffin, and you’ve got yourself quite a night for the Penguins’ special teams.

Paul Martin and Chris Kunitz were the goal scorers on the PP. And in this writers opinion, Kunitz was arguably the best Penguin on the ice tonight. He finished with the PP goal and a primary assist.

Evgeni Malkin also played perhaps his best game of the postseason thus far, tallying a goal and an assist to lead all Pens with 13 points in seven games.

The Goal Scorers

Paul Martin kicked things off for the Pens at 2:41 of the first period. After receiving a pass from Malkin, his shot from the point deflected off Sens’ defenseman Jared Cowan and passed Craig Anderson for the 1-0 advantage. But Ottawa tied things up just over two minutes later on Colin Greening’s first of the playoffs. The puck came off the back wall and between Vokoun’s skate blade and the post. It sat on the ice just behind Vokoun until Greening got his stick in there to jam the puck home.

Malkin gave the Pens back the lead with just under eight minutes left in the first. His old linemates from last season, Chris Kunitz and James Neal, teamed up to feed him the puck on a nifty backdoor play in which Malkin simply abused Cowan. Kunitz had the primary helper.

On the power play in the second, Jarome Iginla (who by the way has a point in every playoff game so far also) took a feed from Kris Letang and fed it to Kunitz, who was right in front of Craig Anderson, and Kunitz was able to bury the puck under a sprawling netminder for the two-goal advantage.

Pascal Dupuis finished things off with a short-handed goal, his sixth of these playoffs (which leads the NHL) at 11:24 of the third to cement the Penguins’ win. When Senators’ defenseman Erik Karlsson pinched down the right wing wall, Douglas Murray chipped the puck passed him and up to Dupuis, who sprang out of the zone in a 2-on-1 advantage with Matt Cooke. With Sergei Gonchar taking away the pass, Dupuis simply out-waited Anderson, fired the shot right underneath the crossbar, over Anderson’s right shoulder and got the water bottle to pop up. Making your final tally:

Penguins 4 – Senators 1 (full game summary here)

A Difference in Systems

Clearly the Ottawa Senators are not as fast, from a whole team perspective, as the New York Islanders, and they play a much different style. A style, in fact, not unlike the one played by the Penguins.

The Islanders created a lot of speed through the neutral zone against Pittsburgh, and it caused a lot of problems for the Pens on the backcheck. But Ottawa likes to get in on the forecheck and cycle the puck. Just like the Pens. And minus a few scrums in front of Tomas Vokoun (one of which, regrettably, led to Ottawa’s only goal) the Penguins played tough, positionally sound defense for most of the game. And you can thank Brooks Orpik largely for that.

Brooks Orpik had 9 hits and 8 blocked shots on Wednesday against St. Louis (Icon SMI)
Brooks Orpik (Icon SMI)

The Penguins seemed to be in a much better place tonight against Ottawa. A much more familiar “comfort zone,” if you will. Unlike they did in the first round, Pittsburgh wasn’t chasing people all over the ice tonight. Furthermore, they were hitting. Orpik was handing out free candy all night, and Eric Gryba took a little too much. About midway through the second frame, Orpik laid a hit on Gryba that sent the big Sens’ defenseman to the locker room, and he did not return.

The only disparaging aspect of this game tonight, was the Pens inability to control the puck in the offensive zone. Other than on the power play, and a shift from the fourth line of Tyler Kennedy, Joe Vitale and Craig Adams, they couldn’t establish themselves in Ottawa’s end of the ice.

The Ribbon on the Package

For the most part, as I stated above, the Penguins looked much more comfortable against the Senators here tonight. In fact, Paul Maclean even said in his postgame press conference that “I thought that they were a little bit quicker than us. I thought they had the hop.” A world of difference compared to a week ago for the Pens.

But, this has to be tempered with the knowledge that its only one game. We all know what happened in the first round.

That’s all for now. I’ll have a piece tomorrow on Pascal Dupuis, the supposed “throw-in” player in the Marian Hossa trade from 2008.

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