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Coach's analysis: Senators must make adjustments in Game 5

Former NHL assistant Jim Corsi says Ottawa has to make Penguins 'feel uncomfortable'

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Jim Corsi to break down the action from the Senators' perspective. Corsi will be checking in throughout the series.

Corsi, 62, is the former goaltending coach for the Buffalo Sabres (2001-14) and St. Louis Blues (2014-17). He also played 26 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1979-80 season.

 

A role reversal allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins to defeat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at Canadian Tire Centre on Friday.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2, and the big question is which team will make the proper adjustments in Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) to move within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

"This has made for an interesting cat-and-mouse type of game where, yeah, it's clogged up and it can create almost a soccer game-like, where it's puck possession or it's battles and suddenly there is a set play -- boom, a shot on goal and it's dangerous because it could be the one goal that makes a difference," former NHL goaltending coach Jim Corsi said. "So the series is tied, and rightly so."

 

[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Senators series coverage]

 

The Penguins made the adjustments for Game 4 after losing 5-1 in Game 3 on Wednesday.

Corsi said the Senators had trouble acting on their game plan in the first period because the Penguins did a good job of finding shooting lanes, especially created off of low puck movement, to get the puck on net, forcing Ottawa to ice the puck or goalie Craig Anderson to freeze it to set up a faceoff in the Senators' zone.

The Penguins won seven of 10 faceoffs in the offensive zone in the first period. They won 10 of 16 at even strength and 13 of 21 overall. Pittsburgh led 1-0 after the period.

It was vastly different from Game 3, when the Senators won 14 of 19 faceoffs in the first period, including five of seven in the offensive zone, and had a 4-0 lead 12:52 into the game.

"We talked after Game 3 about what Ottawa was creating in the offensive zone by throwing pucks at the net and causing Pittsburgh's 'D' zone coverage to look inside while the puck went outside and the next thing you know they're running around," Corsi said. "Well, Pittsburgh threw more pucks at the net in Game 4. Although the first period finished 1-0 on a rush chance that wouldn't have been a chance if it didn't go in, there were 10 faceoffs in Ottawa's 'D' zone and there were two in Pittsburgh's 'D' zone. It wasn't so clean for Ottawa to give their usual bump pass by collecting the puck or blocking a shot to move on out."

Corsi said the sustained offensive zone time didn't necessarily hurt Ottawa. In fact, he had the Senators with a 5-4 advantage in scoring chances in the first period and 16-13 for the game. However, the Penguins outshot the Senators 35-26.

Video: PIT@OTT, Gm4: MacArthur deflects home Ryan's setup

"And although the Penguins faced 26 shots on goal, they blocked or forced Ottawa to miss 26 more," Corsi said. "So they collapsed in the zone and didn't let the Senators get pucks through that traffic so they would go on goal."

On the flip side, Ottawa, which averaged 19 blocked shots in Games 1-3, blocked nine in Game 4.

"So it goes 1-0 after one and you say it could have been 0-0, but the fact is the Penguins took the page away from Ottawa," Corsi said. "The Senators had a tough time to defend it because Pittsburgh won a large portion of the faceoffs and created zone time."

Corsi said the Penguins won the emotional game in the second period and scored twice more to take a 3-0 lead. Sidney Crosby scored a power-play goal in part because Ottawa defenseman Cody Ceci played too high in the zone, leaving Dion Phaneuf to guard what became a 2-on-1 for Jake Guentzel and Crosby.

Ottawa was desperate in the third and put the Penguins on their heels by winning 13 of 17 faceoffs. They got within 3-2 and had a last-minute chance on what was a 6-on-4 power play with Anderson pulled.

Overall, though, Corsi said the Penguins were quicker in Game 3. They were better at dumping the puck and having the second man onto the puck in the zone quicker than the Senators. That resulted in Ottawa struggling to get the puck out with control, as it had done well in previous games.

"They can certainly anticipate that Pittsburgh is going to stay with that type of game, at least one would suspect, in Game 5," Corsi said. "Ottawa has to be faster and prepared to support the puck with confidence, as they have already done in this series.

"I would hazard that Ottawa has a script that works well for them and Pittsburgh has adjusted. Ottawa has to make Pittsburgh feel uncomfortable. It will start with winning faceoffs, puck support and the quicker second man in."

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