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Insider Only X’s & O’s: Penguins do what they want in dictating the play once again

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PENGUINS – PREDATORS X’s & O’s

The Pittsburgh Penguins earned an impressive 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators with a lot of factors playing a part in the decisive win.

They beat the Predators with skill.

They beat the Predators with speed through the neutral zone and off the rush

They beat the Predators with special teams, going 2/4 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.

The Penguins ability to take their game to another level in the second period continued as a late Ryan Johansen goal in the first period did not carry over momentum for the Predators.

The NHL’s best second period team, Pittsburgh played lights out in all three zones, outscoring Nashville 3-1 in the period.

In the first 12:20 of the second period, Pittsburgh scored twice and held Nashville to one shot on goal and zero scoring chances.

The Penguins back-pressure through the middle of the ice was sensational in giving the Predators little time and space. Other than the James Neal line, Nashville had difficulty all game in having sustained offensive zone time and that started with how quick the Penguins were on them through the neutral zone. This isn’t just becoming a one game theme.

The Penguins were very disciplined with their attention to details and they were more disciplined with their puck management than past games and it still didn’t take away from their ability to create offense in out-shooting the Predators 41-24 in the game.

Anytime the Penguins needed to make a momentum changing play they got it.

Nashville ties the game late in the first period, Phil Kessel scores his second goal of the game 2:25 into the second period to put the Penguins ahead 2-1. Kris Letang then adds a power play goal to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead.

James Neal gets the Predators within one goal (3-2 Penguins) at the 14:24 mark of the second period and four minutes later Patric Hornqvist tips a shot from Trevor Daley past Pekka Rinne for a power play goal, Pittsburgh regains the two-goal lead.

The Penguins then go out in the third, out-shoot Nashville 12-7 and Nick Bonino ices the game with his 8th goal of the season at 15:49 of the third.

Pittsburgh not only dictated the play, they made Nashville chase the game for nearly all of it. The Penguins led in this game for a total of 53:27.

How the Penguins were able to dictate the play, the Kessel second period goal off the rush really illustrated how well the Penguins are beating teams on the breakout. The key to defending the Penguins is taking away the middle of the ice in the neutral zone and the only team that’s been able to do it with any success over the last handful of games was the New Jersey Devils. The Pittsburgh still managed over 35 shots that game, though, many low percentage.

What the Penguins love to do is space teams out and have the puck going side to side.

On the Kessel goal, Carl Hagelin is stretching and heading to the bench for a change and what the Penguins do on the breakout is swing the Predators from to side side.

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As the puck comes up to Oskar Sundqvist on the boards, the Predators have four players on the side of the puck, two forwards caught deep.

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The Predators with four players to Sundqvist’s side, plays right into what the Penguins are trying to do. Sundqvist is then able to make an easy high percentage cross-ice pass to Trevor Daley who’s breaking out down the left side.

From there the Penguins then get the Predators over-pursuing to Daley’s side, leaving the middle of the ice wide open. This is how the Penguins are routinely beating teams on the breakout.

The icing on the cake was Barrett Jackman, who is no match to keep up with Phil Kessel at this stage in his career, gets caught out of position about 3-4 steps to the right and is toast by the time Kessel receives the puck from Daley. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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