Senators grab series lead over Penguins

The Senators seized back home-ice advantage by slowing Pittsburgh’s stars and getting two key goals from one of their own in Daniel Alfredsson.
Ottawa—rebounding from a 4-3 loss at home barely 24 hours before in which it twice squandered third-period leads—won 4-2 yesterday to take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 tomorrow night.
Game 5 follows in Ottawa on Thursday.
“We can’t afford to get down 3-1,” the Penguins’ Gary Roberts said. “We know that. We’ve got to come out with a much better effort Tuesday.”
Dean McAmmond and Mike Comrie also scored for Ottawa.
Roberts and Sidney Crosby replied for Pittsburgh. Crosby has three goals in three games in his first-ever playoff series.
The Senators have been in control for all but one-and-a-half periods of the series, winning 6-3 in Game 1.
Only this time, unlike Saturday, when the Penguins came back with three goals in the third period, they have the victory and the series lead to prove it.
“We should have probably buried them the other night and we didn’t, but we put it behind us and did tonight,” said Jason Spezza, who is well-versed in the lengthy list of Senators’ playoff failures over the last 10 years.
The Senators lost forward Patrick Eaves—taken off the ice on a stretcher after being levelled by an unpenalized Colby Armstrong hit with Ottawa up 3-1 midway through the second period.
Eaves appeared to be knocked unconscious, but did not need to go to a hospital.
Though Spezza decried the hit, Senators’ coach Bryan Murray said, “It was a fair hit, a hockey hit, and we live with that.”
Still, the game became visibly more physical after that, with several fights.
Star rookie Evgeni Malkin even dropped the gloves to fight defenceman Chris Phillips late in the game, but the Penguins needed goals at that point—not punches.
The Penguins were outshot 25-19 in the game and have been outshot 99-66 in the series. Crosby, the NHL scoring leader, had five shots, but didn’t score until Ottawa had long since seized control.
Malkin didn’t score on his first four shots of the series.
“We have a lot of great forwards who can create offence, but we didn’t do it tonight and that’s why we lost the game,” defenceman Sergei Gonchar said.
“Our offence stopped in the neutral zone too many times.”
Initially, the Penguins carried the momentum from their Saturday comeback into this game—getting a goal from longtime Senators’ agitator Roberts with only 52 seconds gone.
The goal made an already loud crowd for the Penguins’ first home playoff game since May 19, 2001 louder still, and the Senators didn’t look very confident.
“That was a hard one to start with, a real hurdle for our guys,” Murray said.
But the Senators got the tying goal late in the period when McAmmond put in a rebound of Eaves’ shot from the slot that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped but couldn’t control.
An instant after the puck crossed the goal-line, an upended Tom Preissing tumbled into the net past Fleury, but the goal counted and clearly energized the Senators.
After that, they dominated the second period much like they did in outscoring the Penguins 2-0 and outshooting them in that period in Game 2.
“We were kind of waiting for something to happen, I guess, and once it did, we started playing really well,” Alfredsson said. “Obviously, that second period set us up nice.’’
The Senators, playing in a 10th-consecutive NHL post-season but yet to reach the Stanley Cup final, got the go-ahead goal early in the second.
Joe Corvo’s shot from the left point deflected off Mike Fisher, allowing Comrie to sweep the puck into the unattended side of the net with Fleury occupied on the other side.
“Teams are focusing on capitalizing when they get their chances and we have to do a better job of not making mistakes,” Crosby said.
Crosby scored another of his can-you-top-this goals with about five minutes remaining. Collecting Malkin’s pass near the left circle, he managed to steer the puck past Ray Emery for his third goal in as many games while sliding on his side along the edge of the left circle.
It wasn’t nearly enough.
“We’ve got the momentum now and we would definitely like to keep it,” Alfredsson said.
In other first-round series yesterday, Vancouver won 2-1 in overtime over host Dallas to lead 2-1, Detroit grabbed a 2-0 lead with a 3-1 win over visiting Calgary, and Anaheim beat host Minnesota 2-1 for a commanding 3-0 lead.