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Penguins' Plan Involves Better Execution

Tuesday, 05.19.2009 / 11:07 AM / Features
By Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Senior Writer
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Penguins\' Plan Involves Better Execution
The Penguins are obviously happy to be ahead of the Hurricanes, but aren\'t fooling themselves into thinking their Game 1 effort will be enough.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are happy to take away a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, but they know their work has just begun against the Carolina Hurricanes.

A look at Carolina's history this postseason should be enough to keep Pittsburgh striving to be better. The Hurricanes lost Game 1 against New Jersey by a 4-1 margin in the first round, yet hung around long enough to steal a Game 7 in historic fashion. Last round against the Boston Bruins, Carolina also lost Game 1 by a 4-1 margin, only to win the next three games to take control of that series, which they eventually won in overtime of Game 7.

To say there is no quit in the "Cardiac 'Canes" would be an understatement that Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma hopes his team understands.

"They showed us what they are about tonight with the way they battled and played and kept coming at us," Bylsma said. "At times, they dictated the game."

On two separate occasions in Monday's Game 1, Pittsburgh took a two-goal lead. Each time, the 'Canes found a way to cut the lead and then pressured for the elusive tying goal. In fact, Carolina made the score 3-2 with just 86 seconds left in the game and still managed to fashion another two chances to tie the contest, including a one-timer by Eric Staal that could have found the back of the net if it wasn't flubbed a bit by the Carolina center.

The Penguins know they have to do better in Game 2 (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS), because Carolina will be better.

"We have to execute better," was the mantra Sidney Crosby was preaching in the aftermath of Game 1.

What can the Penguins do better?

Well, Bylsma has a suggestion or two.

"Be a little better on the walls," he said. "More sure on getting pucks out (of the zone) and getting pucks in. In those puck battles at both ends of the rink, we can be sharper, because we know they will be."

Crosby, who had just two shots in the game and none in the first 50 minutes, also said Pittsburgh must do a better job of getting in the wheelhouse of Carolina goalie Cam Ward. Although Ward allowed three goals on 31 shots, he also made some amazing saves and kept it close for long stretches.

After allowing two goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots, Ward stopped 25 of 26 shots. The only one to beat him came on the power play, a seeing-eye slapper that squirted through traffic and under Ward's leg pad.

"It was no surprise, we expected him to be steady," Crosby said. "You know, you can't really blame him on those goals -- he was beaten.

"We've got to continue to test him, throw a lot of shots at him. Our game plan doesn't change because of who is in goal. The same things are going to make you successful against any goalie. You talk a lot about traffic. You don't want guys to see the puck as much. You ask any goalie, if you get traffic in front of them, make it hard for them to see, get bodies there, it becomes tough to read the play. So that is what we want to do."

Crosby would also like to see the Penguins build on leads in a more effective fashion. On Monday, they scored those two quick goals and then went into a long lull. Crosby said his team must know that is a recipe for disaster against the never-say-die Hurricanes.

"You have a one-goal lead and the other team gets a power play and you are one mistake from letting them back in it," Crosby said. "You can't sit on leads by any means. That is the focus for our team -- not to sit on a one-goal lead."

The Penguins will begin working to improve on these areas during Tuesday's optional skate and team meetings. How successful they are will be revealed Thursday, when the puck is dropped to start Game 2 here at Mellon Arena.

Contact Shawn P. Roarke at sroarke@nhl.com


Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor

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