Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Power Up Penguins Power Play Causes Fits for Senators

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Power Up Penguins Power Play Causes Fits for Senators

Article excerpt

PITTSBURGH --

Even as numbers on a roster, the Pittsburgh Penguins' power play appears intimidating.

At times on the ice, it looks borderline unfair.

Start with two NHL MVPs in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Add a future Hall of Famer like Jarome Iginla and a Norris Trophy finalist in defenseman Kris Letang. Throw in a grinder to do the dirty work in Chris Kunitz and the Penguins have a unit that's an electric mix of skill, speed and grit.

Give them 2 minutes to work and they can quickly turn a game into a mismatch. It's a lesson the Ottawa Senators painfully learned during a 4-1 loss to the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday.

Despite dictating play at even strength for long stretches, the Senators were practically blown out on the scoreboard after the Penguins went 2 for 3 on the power play and even added a shorthanded goal to seal it in the third period.

The Penguins made it look easy against the NHL's best penalty killing team. The Senators stopped 88 percent of the power plays they faced during the regular season, easily tops in the league.

All power plays, however, are not created equal. And if the Senators want to even the series in Game 2 tonight, they have to either stay out of the penalty box entirely or find a way to stop a unit that's scoring 38 percent of the time in the playoffs when it goes a man up.

The key to the Penguins' success doesn't rely on Xs and Os as much as remarkable talent that few -- if any -- teams can match. An eye-popping 37 percent of Penguins' power plays in the playoffs have ended with an opponent skating slowly out of the penalty box after the red light behind their goal flicks on.

"They have basically five All-Stars on the first [power play] and it's tough to chase them and get hits on them when they're moving the puck properly," Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot said. "We've got to be better."

It might already be too late.

The Senators have won just two playoff series in franchise history after dropping the first game, none since 2003, and have never rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the postseason.

Yet Ottawa remains upbeat, pointing to the way it was able to tilt the ice at even strength, peppering Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun with 36 shots. …

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