PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — The power play might not be what cost Pittsburgh the game in a 4-3 overtime loss to Philadelphia in Game 1 Wednesday night.
However, it could have put the game away for good.
The Penguins earned a 3-0 lead at the first intermission after a relentless opening period. Three different times in the second and third periods they had the man-advantage and came away with nothing, allowing the Flyers to chip away at the lead and eventually win.
“We could have put the game away with a power-play goal,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “The power play needs to do a better job, that’s the reason we practiced it this morning. We have to learn from that, work on it and make sure we do the right things next game.”
Clearly, the power play struggles were evident to Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and his coaching staff, as Thursday’s practice featured a lot of new wrinkles on special teams.
The biggest and most noteworthy change was on the point. Steve Sullivan, who spent most of the regular season on the point of the first power play unit alongside Letang, returned to that spot.
Sidney Crosby occupied the point at the end of the regular season and in Game 1 but hasn’t been as effective.
With Sullivan and Letang on the points, Evgeni Malkin manned the half wall and Chris Kunitz occupied his normal spot in front of the net. Crosby and James Neal, who leads the team in power play goals, rotated in and out of the fifth and final spot down low.
“We tried some different looks,” Neal said. “We’re always trying different looks and doing different things on the power play. It’s something we put a lot of emphasis on and we’ve got to be better in that area. Special teams is going to win you games and create momentum for your team.”
It appears Bylsma is ready to give two equal power play units a chance. Typically, the first unit for the Penguins skates well over a minute with the second unit seeing roughly 30 seconds at the end of a power play.
“We went with a couple different looks and people in different spots on our power play for that type of situation,” Bylsma said. “We’ll continue to look for that as we go forward.”
It’s apparent Crosby and Neal won’t be on the ice at the same time consistently, meaning Bylsma will likely give the first and second units closer to one minute apiece each man-advantage.
Other looks on the power play included Crosby on the point with Paul Martin with Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke working down low.
The goal is to get extended zone time in the Flyers end. Too often in Game 1 the Penguins rushed into the zone for a single shot on goal and the puck was quickly cleared.
With more zone time comes more chances offensively and, in turn, a greater opportunity to put the game out of reach and tie the series, 1-1.
“We need to make sure we get some clean entries. We need make sure we have as much zone time as we can,” Sullivan said. “We haven’t had too much trouble getting the puck in the zone in the regular season. I think we’re just trying to get back to that.”