PITTSBURGH -- A month away from his 28th birthday and in his seventh NHL season, Marc Methot isn't among the youngest of the Ottawa Senators. But just like some of his six teammates who were born in the 1990s, Methot felt the butterflies stepping onto the ice for a conference semifinal Stanley Cup Playoff game for the first time Tuesday night.
"Oh, I felt it in the first couple shifts; I felt a little tight," the defenseman said. "Maybe a little nervous; you're so excited and looking forward to getting in the game and all amped up and you might be gripping your stick maybe a little too hard."
If Methot -- considered one of the Senators' team leaders -- had to navigate his way through nerves in playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs' second round, imagine how some of the youngest Ottawa players must have felt.
"There's a lot of pressure on some of the players here to perform, and when you're in the second round, you're even more under the spotlight," Methot said. "You get that first game out of the way, guys can maybe calm down a little bit more and play their game."
That's the Senators' plan after a 4-1 loss to the No. 1 seed Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1. Game 2 is 7:30 p.m. Friday at Consol Energy Center.
Outside of the Senators' longtime core of Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips and Chris Neil (center Jason Spezza is not playing because of injury) and 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar, Ottawa has little experience playing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals or beyond.
The team lost in seven games to the New York Rangers in the opening round last season. It's been six years since the Senators advanced past the quarterfinals -- Alfredsson, Phillips, Neil and Spezza were on the 2006-07 team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final. Gonchar was on the Penguins during the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals and with Washington Capitals teams before that had made playoff runs.
But after that group, the Senators didn't know what they'd run into for Game 1 against the high-octane Penguins.
"Every game that we play in the playoffs is a great opportunity for our team to continue to grow, and [Tuesday] wasn't any different," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "A first-round playoff game with the physicality in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's important they went through that.
"But in the second round, everything's a little different, everything goes up miles per hour, everything gets a little bit quicker, everything gets a little bit harder. If you don't continue to raise your level of play, you end up not getting the opportunity to continue to play."
Buoyed by a sellout crowd, Pittsburgh drew a penalty during the game's second shift and had a 1-0 lead at 2:41. Although, on the whole, the Senators were happy with the 5-on-5 game they played against the favored Penguins, sentiment throughout the locker room was that they needed a better start.
Now that they've gotten the experience of Game 1 of this second round out of the way, they're convinced they'll be better off in Game 2.
"There was definitely some jitters and guys were maybe gripping their stick a little bit too tight," Senators goalie Craig Anderson said. "Give [the Penguins] credit; they came out of the gate flying. Their first couple shifts were excellent and they really had momentum and their building was loud."
Pittsburgh has a veteran-dotted roster with 14 players who have played in the Stanley Cup Final. Against a team with scores of players making their postseason debuts for the New York Islanders in the first round, the Penguins won, 5-0, in Game 1.
But New York won Game 2 in Pittsburgh, 4-3. Throughout the Islanders locker room, players said getting the new experience under their belts was beneficial for Game 2.
The Senators are hopeful for a similar boost for their second game against the Penguins. After all, getting a split on the road against the No. 1 seed would be a good way to head back to Scotiabank Place for Game 3 on Sunday.
"Our expectation is that in Game 2 is that now that our players have seen what the second round is like that their level of play and compete level will rise up," MacLean said. "We'll see if it's enough."
|Back to top|