Penguins Notebook: Senators excel in blocking shots


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The Penguins attempted 126 shots in their triple-overtime Game 5 loss to the Ottawa Senators Thursday night at Mellon Arena. They scored on three of them. Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire turned aside 56, and the Penguins missed the net on 20 others.

The other 46 attempts were blocked by the committed Senators, who sacrificed their bodies time and time again to help Leclaire.

"They did a remarkable job of making it difficult to get them through," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We had some very good chances in overtime that their defensemen blocked. And their goaltender played very well.

"You have to keep firing them at the guy and look for opportunities to pounce on. That's what we felt like we would have to get because they were blocking a lot and their goalie was very good."

When the series resumes tonight at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, the Penguins will be looking for a way to solve the Senators' shot-blockers as well as Leclaire.

The Penguins have made some adjustments to counteract the Senators' defensive alignment. Bylsma has been using Kris Letang on the power play because he is a right-handed shot and can get in position to one-time passes to the net before the Senators can move into position to block. They also have tried shooting the puck off the boards instead of on net as a way to put pressure on Ottawa's defensemen.

"Sometimes, you have get guys off the side of the net because they are making it hard," Bylsma said.

"When you're shooting from the point, sometimes you have to shoot for the guy coming out of the corner. We got more aware of that as the game went on.

"Our [defensemen] put the shot off the end boards trying to get by their screens and blocked shots. It's a credit to them. They paid the price in a lot of ways. We have to keep finding ways to execute, get pucks behind and create loose puck situations near the goaltender that we can capitalize on."

Penguins winger Matt Cooke said shooting is not always the best option against the Senators.

"You have to work hard to find the shooting lane," he said.

"Sometimes not necessarily getting it on net is the best option. If you put it off the [end boards] low, allow the forwards to work down low and make them feel uncomfortable down there."

Crosby credited with assist

The NHL changed the scoring on Letang's power-play goal in Game 5 and credited Sidney Crosby with an assist. The second assist originally had been credited to Bill Guerin.

Crosby now has a personal-high 14 points in the opening-round series. His previous high had been 13 in the seven-game series against Washington last year.

He needs three points to tie and four to break the club record for most points in a playoff series. Mario Lemieux had 17 points in a seven-game series against the Capitals in 1992.

Conner is recalled

The Penguins recalled winger Chris Conner from their Wilkes- Barre/Scranton minor league team Friday night. Conner played in eight games with the Penguins in the regular season and registered two goals and an assist.

Conner ranked second on the Baby Penguins in points (56) and assists (37). He had 19 goals in 59 games.

Calm, cool and collected

If the Penguins are worried that the Senators regained the momentum in the series with the Game 5 victory, they were not showing it Friday. In fact, many of the players said they were mentally prepared for a long series against Ottawa.

"If you were going to tell me we were going to be up, 3-2, in the series that would have been fine with me," defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. "We know they're going to come out and play hard. We have to make sure we're ready for it. We can't worry about momentum. We have to worry about winning a hockey game."

Cooke echoed Gonchar's sentiments.

"If you thought you were going to win four straight, you were setting yourself to be frustrated and to be let down," Cooke said.

"I think the one thing we have learned from the last couple of playoff runs is that you try not to let the highs be too high and the lows be too low."

A better start

Rarely will coaches use their time out in the first period of a game, especially in the playoffs, but that is exactly what Bylsma did after the Penguins fell behind, 2-0, 11 1/2 minutes into the first period Thursday night.

The message was short and sweet.

"Just wake up," Penguins winger Chris Kunitz said of Bylsma's talk to the team. "We weren't getting to our game. We were turning pucks over, and they capitalized on that."

The Penguins would like to respond with a better first period tonight in Game 6 to avoid another uphill climb.

"The first 15 minutes our level wasn't where it needed to be," Cooke said.

"Ultimately, that was the difference."


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com .


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