The Pittsburgh Penguins continued their march through round one of the playoffs as they beat an inspired Ottawa Senators team 4-1 on Monday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. Despite the emotional lift of getting Daniel Alfredsson back in the lineup, putting forth their best effort of the series, and scoring first, the Ottawa Senators gave up 2-quick goals early in the 3rd and fell to the Penguins on their own ice. With the win, the Penguins have earned the opportunity to sweep the series with a win on Wednesday night, and reverse their first round fortunes of last post-season.
In the 1st period, the Ottawa Senators came out as expected in front of their home crowd with a lot of emotion and energy. That emotion was fueled by the earlier than expected return of Daniel Alfredsson to the Senators lineup. While reportedly recovering from a lower body injury (suspected torn MCL), Alfredsson’s presence and puck handling abilities served to inspire his teammates as they put forth the best offensive effort seen so far in this series. While there were no goals scored in the 1st period, the Senators outshot the Penguins 14-12. The Penguins went 0-for-2 on the power play in the period and successfully killed off the only penalty (Talbot, goaltender interference).
In the 2nd, it looked like the Senators would gain the momentum as they scored an even strength goal at 1:11 to take the early lead. Nick Foligno took a bouncing pass from Jason Spezza, chipped it between the legs of a wandering Ryan Whitney and then beat Marc-Andre Fleury five-hole with a quick wrister. The lead did not last long, however, as the Penguins bounced back with an even strength goal of their own at 5:39 from Max Talbot. Marian Hossa moved the puck up the ice to Pascal Dupuis who hit Talbot breaking into the zone. Talbot moved the puck to his backhand and slipped the puck between the open pads of Martin Gerber to tie it up 1-1. The Penguins edged the Senators 14-13 in shots in the period, but failed to convert on two man advantage opportunities.
In the 3rd period, the Penguins re-asserted their dominance in the series as they outshot the Senators 12-7 and scored 3-goals, including 2 in the first minute and a half of the period that broke the spirit of the Ottawa Senators. Just 12-seconds into the period, Sidney Crosby busted in on a 2-on-1 break and snapped the puck past Martin Gerber stick side. Marian Hossa and Rob Scuderi picked up the assists on the play. Then, at 1:30, Jordan Staal chipped a Tyler Kennedy pass up over the the shoulder of Martin Gerber to make it 3-1. Jarkko Ruutu picked up the other assist. Finally, at 8:55, Marian Hossa collected a loose puck from a scrum in front of Gerber and deposited it into the net. The power play goal was assisted by Sidney Crosby and Ryan Malone, and was Hossa’s first post-season goal in 4-years. The Penguins were 1-for-3 on the power play and succesfully killed off their only short-handed situation.
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Max Talbot (1G), Sidney Crosby (1G, 1A), Jordan Staal (1G) and Marian Hossa (1G, 2A) all picked up their first goals of the post-season, and Marc-Andre Fleury was again spectacular in goal stopping 33-of-34 shots. Evgeni Malkin failed to figure in the scoresheet despite another strong performance. Gary Roberts did not play due to a groin injury and was replaced by Adam Hall in the lineup. The Penguins did a tremendous job of handling the pressure of going down 1-0 on their opponents ice, and continued to play their system largely to perfection. Through 3-games in the series, the Penguins have outshot the Senators 127-90 and have outscored them 13-4. Marc-Andre Fleury has a 0.956 save percentage and 1.33 GAA in the series.
The Penguins meet the Senators again in Ottawa on Wednesday night where they will try to finish up the series on the road and make it a clean sweep.