Short-handed situations slowing Penguins offense


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The Toronto Maple Leafs spoiled the Penguins' home opener, 5-2, Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, but one thing was clear -- it wasn't the fault of the Penguins' penalty-killing.

Nothing much this season has been.

The Maple Leafs got their final goal with 1:01 left in regulation on a five-on-three power play, but that didn't seem like enough to counter the job the Penguins did earlier -- and in their first two games, both road wins -- while short-handed.

"Our penalty-kill has been pretty good for the most part," said center Brandon Sutter, a newcomer to the club who has helped the Penguins give up just two power-play goals in 17 chances through three games -- and those two goals came with the team on the wrong side of a five-on-three.

Toronto finished 1 for 8 on the power play.

"Our penalty-kill was very good again [Wednesday night]," coach Dan Bylsma said.

The flip side is that the Penguins spent 11 minutes, 40 seconds killing penalties. They were assessed eight minor penalties.

"You're in the [penalty] box that much, it definitely takes a toll on you," Sutter said. "It takes away a lot of momentum, and you spend a lot of time trying to play defense."

That was a theme in the second period. With the score tied, 2-2, the Penguins were short-handed continuously over a stretch of 5:03, including Toronto five-on-three advantages for 50 and 7 seconds.

It started with a tripping call against defenseman Deryk Engelland at 8:45. The Maple Leafs managed just two shots before Matt Cooke got sent off for slashing at 9:55.

The Penguins limited Toronto to one shot over the 50 seconds that they were down by two skaters.

At 11:48, defenseman Kris Letang was penalized for boarding, producing a seven-second five-on-three for the Maple Leafs followed by 1:53 of a conventional power play.

In that last power play, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made a strong glove save on Phil Kessel's shot from the slot.

"[Fleury] has been outstanding," Penguins penalty-killer Craig Adams said. "He's probably been our best penalty-killer."

The Penguins weren't clearing the puck out of their defensive zone repeatedly; they simply clogged things up.

"You can't control whether they want to shoot the puck or not, but you want to be in shooting lanes as best as you can," Adams said.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik pointed out that being short-handed so much also ate into the Penguins offense.

Although Sidney Crosby has been killing penalties a little more this season -- he played 2:06 of his 24:07 short-handed against the Maple Leafs -- he's not on the ice with the penalty-killers as much as other forwards. And snipers Evgeni Malkin and James Neal don't kill penalties.

"Those three guys are sitting on your bench [seemingly] the whole second period. It really minimizes your chance offensively," Orpik said.

"Having those three guys on the bench isn't a very good recipe for winning hockey games. Even if you kill [all those penalties], it takes so much energy out of you, and it takes those guys off the ice."

While the Penguins want to cut down on opponents' power-play chances -- "We did a good job, but we shouldn't have to spend so much time [killing penalties]," Sutter said -- the team's returning penalty-killers seem to have earned some redemption from last season's playoffs.

"We know we can do a good job," Adams said. "It's just a question of being focused and executing and doing the right things -- things we weren't doing in the playoffs last year."

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