There are a lot of reasons the Pittsburgh Penguins have a 2-1 lead over the New York Rangers in their opening-round playoff series.
Production from their top power-play unit is not on the list.
The Penguins actually have been one of the best teams with the man-advantage in this year’s playoffs — they enter Game 4 tonight at 7 at PPG Paints Arena converting 33.3 percent of their chances, third-highest success rate in the NHL — but all of their 5-on-4 goals have come from the second unit.
Not only has the No. 1 group — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust — failed to generate a 5-on-4 goal so far, it has been on the ice for a pair of shorthanded goals by the Rangers.
Nonetheless, coach Mike Sullivan said after his team’s game-day skate that he believes the top group will be able to begin performing to its potential.
“We believe in them,” he said. “They’re talented players, and we believe they’ll get it together and execute, and when they do, they’re certainly going to help us have success.”
The onus on executing efficiently obviously falls on the players, but Sullivan said he and his assistants are attempting to get the unit back in synch.
“The coaching staff can help in that regard,” he said. “We’re certainly trying to do our part to help these guys have success. We’re sharing the insights that we have, and the observations that we have. We’re trying to give them the game plan that sets them up for success. This is a collective effort.”
Pittsburgh Penguins Notes
*** Rickard Rakell, who was injured during the first period of Game 1, participated in the game-day skate, but wore a no-contact jersey and will not play tonight.
*** Brian Dumoulin has missed the past two games because of an unspecified injury and did not take part in the game-day skate. Sullivan said his status has not changed, so he presumably will not be in the lineup tonight.
*** Jason Zucker, on his injury-plagued season: “I would say it’s definitely been the toughest year of my career, for sure. The way the injuries have gone … feeling great, come back, reinjured, feel great again, come back, injured … it just feels like it’s been non-stop.”
*** The Penguins’ personnel combinations were unchanged from their 7-4 victory in Game 3, although Rakell did a bit of work with the fourth line and Nathan Beaulieu rotated in on the third defense pairing.
*** Barry Trotz, fired as coach of the New York Islanders this morning, was behind the bench for three of the past four teams that knocked the Penguins out of the playoffs. He coached Washington in 2018, the Islanders in 2019 and 2021.