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Stanley Cup notebook: Pens need to fix ailing power play

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins' power play was running at a glossy 25 percent success rate through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's hit a stone wall in the Cup final.

The Penguins are just 1 for 13 in three games against the Nashville Predators. In the last two games, they are 0 for 10 and only have three shots on goal. The power play was a huge point of emphasis during Sunday's practice in Bridgestone Arena.

"We've practiced some concepts that we've been working on all season," said coach Mike Sullivan. "It's not anything new to them but obviously we haven't had the success in this particular series. But we believe these guys are capable and we're just trying to reinforce the strategies."

Special teams were a huge factor in Nashville's 5-1 win in Game Three as the Predators blanked the Pens while going 2 for 3 on their power play to improve to 4 for 10 in the final.

The Penguins have struggled with their zone entries with the man advantage due to Nashville's strong defensive corps. And if they lose a faceoff and the puck is fired back down the ice, they've had difficulty re-establishing their presence in the offensive zone.

"It just comes down to execution the way they pressure," said center Sidney Crosby.

The Penguins tried some different looks in practice Sunday, flipping Crosby and Phil Kessel on opposite sides of the ice and inserting red-hot Jake Guentzel on the top unit.


Penguins forward Nick Bonino made a surprise appearance at practice after getting drilled in the ankle by a P.K. Subban shot in Game Two. Bonino did some power play work and could play in Game Four.

"I just wanted to get out there, try to move it a little bit," Bonino said. "Felt all right. But it’s not awesome.”


Daily Guentzel update: The goal scored by the Penguins rookie Saturday made him the first player to tally in the first three games of a Cup final since Steve Yzerman did it for Detroit against Philadelphia in 1997.

Guentzel has 13 goals in the playoffs, one shy of the record of 14 set by Minnesota's Dino Ciccarelli in 1981. He’s also two points shy of breaking Ciccarelli’s record for most points (21) in a playoff.

Nashville's Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm both scored their first goals of the playoffs in Game Three, becoming the 18th and 19th Preds players to tally in these playoffs. Having 19 different scorers is two shy of the NHL record of 21 set by the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers.


The annual tour of top NHL Draft prospects at the Cup final hits Nashville tonight, with projected top two picks Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier scheduled to be on hand along with Minnesota high schooler Casey Mittelstadt and Memorial Cup champion Gabriel Vilardi of Windsor.

The quartet will hold a media session in the afternoon and tape the annual prospects cht with Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry before watching Game Four from a Bridgestone Arena suite. It's the same routine Jack Eichel went through in Chicago during the 2015 final between the Blackhawks and Tampa Bay, a couple of weeks before he was drafted No. 2 overall by the Sabres.

The prospects are coming off their work at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, which wrapped up Saturday with physical testing in HarborCenter.

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The Predators are planning another outdoor bash for Game Four but the weather could put a damper on things as there's an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms in the forecast for most of Monday. The outdoor festivities Saturday were held under sunny skies with temperatures pushing 90 degrees.

Police estimated the crowd to be around 50,000 but that number is probably going to be less on Monday, given the weather and the fact the game is not on a weekend.

Hockey Tonk: Nashville ready for its first show on NHL's biggest stage

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