Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013: Penguins display defensive versatility in Game 3 loss

Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

Despite an inability to hold off a late push from the Ottawa Senators in Game 3, the Pittsburgh Penguins displayed a facet of their game that hasn't been seen this postseason.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had no trouble producing offense during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. Through nine games, Pittsburgh has registered four goals or more in seven contests. In the two games the Penguins failed to hit that total, the team has lost.

The first instance came in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders. The second occurrence came in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night. While the result was the same, the dynamic of the defeat was different.

Pittsburgh's postseason has largely been composed of wide-open affairs filled with goal scoring. Despite Ottawa's defensive reputation, the Penguins had managed to score eight goals in the first two games of the series.

In Game 3, the teams engaged in a style that suited Ottawa. Defensive, tight checking and low scoring, the game was not something that Pittsburgh had experienced this postseason. Despite this, the team found themselves ahead with the lone goal of the contest after 58 minutes of competition. With a little over 90 seconds left, it appeared as though the game was cemented with an Erik Karlsson slashing penalty.

A minute later, the Senators defied expectation when the team scored a short-handed goal to force overtime.

Following a scoreless 20-minute stanza of free hockey, the Senators re-emerged in the semifinals after Colin Greening scored the game-winning goal near the eight-minute mark of the second overtime to complete an improbable comeback.

From a general perspective, the Penguins failed to complete a comprehensive defensive effort due to a weak coverage on the game-tying goal late in the contest. While the only thing that matters in the postseason is the final score, Game 3 was an interesting development for the heavy favorite in the Eastern Conference.

Prior to Sunday night, it wasn't clear whether Pittsburgh was capable of competing in a low-scoring game. While the team had won close games this postseason, the Penguins had yet to participate in a game that was predicated on defensive responsibility. While the result wasn't ideal and the final defensive play of regulation was blown, one could take away that Pittsburgh can flexibly adjust to a style of play that seemingly doesn't fit their strengths. This could be a situation the Penguins face in subsequent games this series, let alone if the team manages to advance beyond the second round.

However, the prospects of advancement would have been far greater if the Penguins found a way to hold the Senators scoreless, which is the flawed component of a positive outlook on the team's Game 3 performance. While the Penguins displayed an ability to play a low-scoring game, they failed to prove they could win a low-scoring game.

Conversely, Ottawa further built upon their reputation as a team that won't quit and is now in position to send the series back to Pittsburgh tied at two games apiece.

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