Game 2 Key Developments

The Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back in Game 2 with a much stronger 60 minute type of performance to tie the series at 1-1.

Mike Sullivan, as expected, stuck with the same lineup and lines, minus some tinkering with the lines here and there as the game progressed.

The numbers might not show it as the Penguins and Canadiens played even in driving possession and high danger chances 5-on-5, but the eye test showed the Penguins talent really separated from the Canadiens in much longer stretches compared to Game 1.

There was a lot to like from the Penguins’ performance, though, even with Carey Price playing as well as he is, and he was the best player on the ice in Game 2, a 5-4 advantage in Goals For through two games isn’t something the Penguins should be patting themselves on the back for. Ideally with all the power play chances they’re getting and how strong the Penguins play was at times in Game 2, there were a number of opportunities to blow the Habs out and put some serious doubt in the Canadiens minds that they’re cooked moving forward.

Who didn’t see this coming:

He doesn’t have stunning statistics through two games by any means but Sidney Crosby has been great through two games, especially over the last five periods of play. Crosby set the tone for the night with a breakaway goal on Carey Price in period one.

Others followed suit in stepping up:

— Coming in losing seven straight playoff games, Matt Murray looked everything of the Matt Murray that led the Penguins to back-to-back Cups in 2016, 2017. He played big and that’s when he’s at his best. And what a drastic improvement with the rebound control from Game 1. Montreal has very few players who can create individual 1-on-1 offense. They have to rely on getting hard working goals off rebounds. There was just none coming off Murray in Game 2, until the late goal.

Jake Guentzel scored an empty net goal and picked up a primary assist on Crosby’s breakaway goal. It was a stronger performance from Guentzel who was much more effective in creating time and space for himself. In game 1, he was getting bullied down low. Game 2, Guentzel put himself in spots to be more creative above the dots.

— Rebound game from Conor Sheary who turned defense into offense, setting up Jason Zucker from what ended up being the Game Winning Goal late in the third period. Zucker  had a very strong game and was one of the best players on the ice. His puck-pursuit game was on another level.

— Key adjustment and an obvious one, Patric Hornqvist moving to the net-front on the power play. Didn’t lead to many pucks getting behind Carey Price, but there was a major difference in getting into Price’s sightlines and making him uncomfortable on shots 35-ft out.

— It’s a much easier matchup to be defensively responsible against a team with little individual high-end skill, than say the prospects of facing Lightning, Capitals, Bruins or Flyers in the next round which will be a different animal to deal with (if the Penguins advance), but Kris Letang has reamed himself in so far this series, avoiding the major blunder or two that often haunts the Penguins. It’s been the opposite with the top pair as Brian Dumoulin again in Game 2, didn’t look himself in the d-zone.

— The line of Patrick Marleau – Jared McCann – Patric Hornqvist was improved in around 7 minutes of ice time 5-on-5. Drove some offense, did the little things well.

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