After experiencing almost nothing but success during a five-game ouster of the Montreal Canadiens, the Senators learned Tuesday night what it is like to be on the wrong end of a steamrolling.
The Pittsburgh Penguins scored a pair of power-play goals, added another while shorthanded, and received 35 saves from Tomas Vokoun to fashion a convincing 4-1 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Consol Energy Center.
Game 2 of this best-of-7 series is not until Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"They played a little bit better than we did today, and we've got to come out better next game and be more prepared," Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "They scored an early goal on us and set us back a bit. Need to just keep improving for every game and we know it's going to be harder and harder."
Before it was finished, Chris Kunitz also scored a power-play goal, Pascal Dupuis added a backbreaking shorthanded goal, and Evgeni Malkin scored an even-strength goal after James Neal got in hard on the forecheck and badgered Cowen into a turnover.
In between the goals, Pittsburgh established a physical tone that seemed to put Ottawa back on its heels. The Penguins delivered 40 hits and every skater -- minus Malkin and Brandon Sutter -- had at least one. Kunitz and Matt Cooke led the hit parade with five each, and Brook Orpik had four, including a devastating open-ice hit that sent defenseman Erik Gryba from the game in the second period.
"I thought they were a little quicker than us and harder than us in the game," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "I thought at the net they were harder than us, they were harder at both nets. That's something we need to get better at and will get better at."
To a man, the Senators found fault in their own game.
"I think we all know that we've got to have a better effort throughout than we did tonight," said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was minus-1 in 17:58 of ice time. "We have to be quicker in our decision-making."
Cory Conacher, who played a feisty game throughout, said the Senators need to be more disciplined and to capitalize on the opportunities that were presented. Ottawa did manage 36 shots against a Pittsburgh team that was sometimes careless with the puck in its own end. Vokoun also left a fair number of juicy rebounds as he fought the puck during the game's first 40 minutes.
"I guess they got a couple more bounces than we did tonight," said Conacher, who took a bad offensive-zone penalty to provide the power play on which Kunitz scored for a 3-1 lead late in the second period. "They're a team that's good on the power play and we have to try and stay out of the box a little more.
"It was just one of those games where you couldn't buy a goal in certain situations. If we don't capitalize on opportunities, they'll get their goals because there [are] a lot of studs on their team."
Nobody took the loss harder than goaltender Craig Anderson, who had allowed four goals in the final three games against Montreal but gave up four in the first 51:24 Tuesday night.
"I thought they were a little quicker than us and harder than us in the game. I thought at the net they were harder than us, they were harder at both nets. That's something we need to get better at and will get better at."
-- Ottawa coach Paul MacLean
"It wasn't good enough," said Anderson, who finished with 26 saves. "We have to be better and it starts with myself giving my team a chance to win. [I've] got to lead by example and go out and do the job.
"You can always be better. I could replay all the goals and say what would I do differently but at the end of the day I didn't stop them."
Nobody else was ready to sell Anderson down the river for Tuesday's result. There was enough blame, they said, to spread it around liberally.
"Andy made a couple of big saves for us still, kept us in the game," Conacher said.
MacLean said, "I'm not sure we can fault our goaltender for not being good in the game; I think overall our PK and our special teams ended up the difference in the game, and I think the play of our team was the difference."
The time to look back will end soon. The process of looking forward to Game 2 on Friday begins with an optional afternoon practice Wednesday.
"If we had any kind of stage fright or jitters," MacLean said, "that should now be behind us and now it's up to us to make it a series."