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Eastern Conference Final | Penguins vs. Senators

playoffs

Penguins resilient, find way to win Game 2 despite injuries

Defeat Senators to even series after Bryan Rust, Justin Schultz leave in first period

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Success hasn't come easy for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That was the case again Monday, when the Penguins played most of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final with 11 forwards and five defensemen. Despite that handicap, Pittsburgh gutted out a 1-0 win against the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena.

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"We're a pretty resilient group, right?" said Phil Kessel, who scored the game-winning goal with 6:55 remaining in the third period. "We've been there before. We got guys that can step in and step up, and we found a way to get it done in the end tonight."

 

[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Senators series coverage]

 

That same statement applied to numerous Penguins wins from the regular season. It could also describe most, if not all, of their nine wins in the playoffs, particularly Game 2.

Forward Patric Hornqvist did not play because of an undisclosed injury after taking line rushes during warmups. He was labeled a game-time decision Monday morning.

With Hornqvist out, Conor Sheary went from a probable healthy scratch to third-line right wing. After 4:58 of the first period, Sheary was moved to first-line right wing after Bryan Rust left the game because of an undisclosed injury caused by a hit from Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm2: Fleury shuts down Dzingel in close

Defenseman Justin Schultz left the game 4:32 later following a collision with Mike Hoffman that sent him sliding into the end boards.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan did not provide updates on Hornqvist, Rust or Schultz following the game.

Suddenly, with 10:52 remaining in the first period, the Penguins were without their first-line right wing (Rust), their net-front presence on the top power-play unit (Hornqvist) and the quarterback of that unit (Schultz).

Pittsburgh was vulnerable. It responded by controlling the final two periods by outshooting Ottawa 21-13.

"Our defensemen were unbelievable," center Sidney Crosby said. "They were at five for a long period of time. That's not easy. So, I think that they hung in there, made a lot of great plays and allowed us to have possession of the puck and create things offensively."

Not that it surprised Crosby.

"We try to have high expectations," he said. "Whoever's in whatever role or whatever guys need to do out there, I think they're willing to do it."

At one point, the Penguins kept the Senators from having a shot on goal for 18:53. After Chris Wideman's snap shot with 3:47 remaining in the second period, Ottawa didn't have another shot until Zack Smith backhanded one on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 4:54 left in the third.

When asked what he did during that span, Fleury jokingly responded, "Wait."

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm2: Kessel rips wrister past Anderson

"I think we knew what to expect from [the Senators]," Fleury said. "We stuck with it. We kept playing our game. … We had the puck so much and we didn't give them much. So, we controlled the play from start to finish."

Moving forward, the injuries could be a concern. The Penguins already are without arguably their top two defensemen, Kris Letang (neck surgery) and Trevor Daley (lower body). Pittsburgh could be without its top three if Schultz is sidelined past Game 2.

Hornqvist and Rust each is a valuable offensive player who provides grit and speed, respectively. Their absences would leave sizable holes in the Pittsburgh lineup.

Those concerns are for another day, though. On Monday, the Penguins had a chance to celebrate their resilience once again.

"I thought they did a great job," Sullivan said. "I thought the players responded really well."

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