Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins found offense against the tight checking, defense-first (and second, and third) Ottawa Senators.
The game was the Penguins third straight — and fourth in five games — against a team which uses a tight-checking system. The Penguins have won two of those last three and three of the four games.
Mike Sullivan was blunt, “I thought we got outplayed in the first two periods,” he said. “That was our message to the guys: ‘Don’t be fooled by the score.'”
The Penguins scored a handful goals midway through the second period, which forced Ottawa to loosen their system to pursue offense.
In particular, they took advantage of the Senators’ collapsed defensive-zone coverage. Often, all five Senators skaters would play below the dots, to protect the net. The Penguins dual approach was to use the rush and use the open defenseman at the point, as Sidney Crosby did about one minute before the Penguins first goal. Note all five Senators below the dots and an open Justin Schultz:
Senators Goal #1: Bad Line Change
This one is simple. The Penguins didn’t get the puck in deep and tried to make a change. Right winger Phil Kessel had just stepped onto the ice as Derick Brassard blasted a slapshot past Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
The Penguins didn’t get the puck in deep, which allowed Ottawa to transition quickly. And, as you can see here, the Penguins didn’t have a right wing in place. Bad change, not on Kessel.
Penguins Goal #2: Guentzel Beat Phaneuf
It was an impressive tally for Jake Guentzel, who had been struggling to score. Guentzel went into Dion Phaneuf’s ice and won the battle. Guentzel scored a power-play goal early in the first period, but this red light was hard earned.
The rest of the goal was similar to the Penguins offensive-zone possession, above, which occurred only one minute prior.
It began by using the open defenseman at the point, Kris Letang. Kessel won the battle for the first rebound. Guentzel won the battle for the second. The only way to score against numbers is to outwork them. The Penguins did. 2-1.
Penguins Goal #3: They Lost Malkin?!
Carl Hagelin has been red-hot, but four Ottawa Senators watched Hagelin skate away — without the puck — and failed to see one of the best players of this generation lurking like a great white shark.
Hagelin’s speed through the neutral zone launched him past the Senators defense and Evgeni Malkin buried a pretty backhand shot (but four Senators?!):
Breaking the Boucher Trap
The Penguins used the center curl and “drive” efficiently Tuesday night. Here’s a prime example from Carter Rowney, in five stages. In the end, Rowney created a scoring chance, and Zach Aston-Reese crashed the net:
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