There is room for improvement in every facet of every team's game after every time it plays.
And so it is with the Penguins' special teams in the wake of their 4-1 victory against Ottawa in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center.
There just isn't much.
Their power play scored on two of its three chances, while their penalty-killers denied the Senators on all six opportunities with the extra man.
And Pascal Dupuis punctuated a sensational game for their special teams with a short-handed goal that closed out the scoring.
"Our penalty-killing and our special teams play ended up being the difference in the game," Senators coach Paul MacLean said.
Well, that was his perspective, anyway.
The Penguins opted to view what transpired through the prism of their own power-play and short-handed units.
"We talked about special teams being huge in the playoffs," Dupuis said. "And it paid off tonight."
The Penguins have a 1-0 lead in the series, which will resume with Game 2 at 7:38 p.m. Friday at Consol Energy Center. The series will then shift to Ottawa for Games 3 and 4.
While special teams play went a long way toward determining how Game 1 played out, backup goalie Tomas Vokoun made a major contribution for the third game in a row.
Oh, he had a few ragged moments, especially early, but turned aside 35 of 36 shots Ottawa threw at him.
"Really, really impressive," Dupuis said.
The Penguins' penalty-killers were, as well, even though they were more involved in the game than the Penguins would have liked, since Ottawa had six tries with the extra man.
"They have some guys who can really make plays out there," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.
"We don't want to challenge our [penalty-killers] too much."
They might be called upon fairly often in this series, however, if the animosity level remains as high as it was in the opener.
With just under 6 1/2 minutes to go before the second intermission, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and Senators forward Cory Conacher traded whacks in front of the Penguins net.
Orpik punctuated the exchange with a cross-check,
Then -- about four minutes later, Orpik initiated a seismic collision with Senators defenseman Eric Gryba just inside the Penguins' blue line.
Gryba looked a bit wobbly as he made his way to the bench and was escorted to the locker room shortly after he arrived there.
He did not return and his status for Game 2 isn't known.
"I actually reminded myself before the game not to get too crazy with the whole atmosphere," Orpik said. " 'If you get any opportunities [to hit], great, but if not, just try to stay patient.' I was fortunate enough to get a couple of opportunities."
There's something about Game 1s that suits Evgeni Malkin -- he has nine goals and 14 assists in 14 of them -- and he proved it again by recording a couple of points.
He picked up an assist at 2:41 of the opening period, setting up Paul Martin for a power-play goal and got the goal that put the Penguins in front to stay at 12:15, when he steered a Chris Kunitz feed past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.
Between those goals, Colin Greening had jammed a puck across the goal line after Vokoun failed to pin it to the left post, but that was the only puck that eluded the Penguins goaltender.
Kunitz raised their lead to 3-1 during a power play at 18:33 of the second by nudging a Jarome Iginla rebound past Anderson from the front lip of the crease, and Dupuis put the game out of reach with a short-handed goal at 11:24 of the third.
He beat Anderson from low in the left circle to cap a two-on-one break with Matt Cooke while James Neal was serving a holding minor.
"That really capped off the game for us," Kunitz said.
Put an exclamation point on a productive night for the penalty-kill, too.
It has allowed just two goals in 26 short-handed situations in these playoffs after sputtering through much of the regular season.
"We probably could have cut down the amount of penalties we took," Orpik said.
"But the penalty-kill was really good."mobilehome - penguins
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 15, 2013 2:15 AM