KANATA, Ont. -- For the Ottawa Senators, they know Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) is a must-win.
But the Penguins have the same feeling. While the Senators are playing for their postseason lives, the Penguins know they have the chance to take a 3-1 stranglehold Tuesday night and return home with a chance to close out the series Thursday.
"We know that we're going to see their best," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
To match that best, the Penguins need to do something they haven't done since early March -- win three-straight games. In fact, back-to-back victories in Games 2 and 3 of this series mark the first time they've won consecutive games since March 27-28. It's the first time they've won consecutive games in regulation since March 6-7.
Coach Dan Bylsma said earlier in the series there's no light switch in the dressing room that he's able to flip on and off to control his team's performances, but he certainly has seen them develop and execute all the things he wants.
"The one area where I think our team has done a better job, especially the last two games, is we've had a responsible three in the offensive zone," Bylsma said. "We've gotten to track pucks better and allowed our (defensemen) to have a good gap. When you do that, it's tough for anyone to have the space and speed through the neutral zone that they need. We need to continue to get better at that."
Crosby said there's room for his team to get better.
"We feel like we can improve, too," he said. "We have to make sure our desperation is there and that we're sharp. It comes back to the same mindset as last game. We know they're going to come hard, but we've got to focus on ourselves, setting the tone. We got that big goal at the start of the game last game. Might not be that, but our play has to be there and we have to dictate play early on."
Crosby has done a masterful job of doing that all by himself. Most of the questions surrounding the Senators have been how to slow Crosby, whose 5 assists and 7 points lead all postseason skaters. One columnist suggested going with a 1970s-era shadow -- a player whose only job was to watch Crosby, hop over the boards every time the Pens' captain did, and never leave his side in all three zones.
"Anybody you play against is going to be tough," Crosby said. "I'm not too worried about who I'm playing against. You have to be ready to complete no matter who you're up against."
Crosby has made the most of what little time and space the Senators have allowed him.
"I think he has a great sense, even with a little space, of gaining position on a player," Bylsma said. "Once you do, now he has that body position and skating ability to take a very little amount of space, but gain body position and go to the net. You see that on the goal in the last game. He didn't have a lot of space there, but he was on the forecheck and he created the turnover with his stick and established body position right away. He's able to capitalize and maintain the body position all the way to the net. That's something you try to teach and talk about, but it's also an innate ability Sid has."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org