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Conference Final

Senators braced for pushback from Penguins in Game 2

Ottawa knows what to expect with Pittsburgh behind 1-0 in best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The Ottawa Senators know there will be pushback. After all, it is the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they will make their adjustments, make their changes and make their charge.

The Senators believe they are ready. They know they will need to be when they play Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Senators lead the best-of-7 series 1-0 after a 2-1 overtime win Saturday.

It's something the Senators already have seen during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After winning Game 1 against the New York Rangers in the second round, the Rangers took three two-goal leads in Game 2, but the Senators won in double-overtime. The Rangers pushed even harder and won Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden.

So they can see the surge coming because they have experienced it.

"Oh yeah, it was scary," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "It was scary. It wasn't fun to live. But at least now when I say, 'Hey guys, there's going to be pushback,' the guys can imagine it now. Before we talked about there's going to be pushback but it always stays a little fictional because you haven't lived it.

"I think we got slapped quite hard in the forehead in that third game in their barn [in New York]. Now at least we have an image that what it could be, and again it might be worse, the pushback, because [the Penguins] have so [many] high-end players and they won the Cup, and they know how to win and they're a confident group."

Which was why Boucher finished with this: "That's probably as hard of a game as we're going to get is the next game."

The Senators believe they're mentally and physically prepared for it, that they'll know what to do when they feel that push from the Penguins.

"We had a good lesson," Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. "We even knew [Saturday]. They came out hard, they scored their first goal, after that, the last five minutes, they were all over us. We know they can play and they can play even better. I'm sure they're not satisfied with what they did."

But, Pageau said, the Senators also can be better. Their coverage was sloppy at times. They left goaltender Craig Anderson out to dry on occasion and were saved by his stellar performance.

Which leaves them hungry to, as Pageau said, "Come harder and play with urgency."

The Senators watched the Rangers score two goals in the first period of Game 3 add two more in the third in a 4-1 win. It was the same in Game 4, another 4-1 loss that sent the Senators back to Ottawa in a series that was tied 2-2.

Ottawa managed to resuscitate itself, winning Game 5 in overtime and closing the series with a victory in New York in Game 6. But in Games 3 and 4, when New York made its big push, it looked very precarious for Ottawa.

That should help when the Penguins do the same, especially given the similarities between the Rangers and the Penguins, who pose some of the same challenges for the Senators in terms of their speed.

"I think we sat back a little too much," Senators forward Zack Smith said of Game 3 in the Rangers series. "They were flying and we were caught off guard for a little bit. It took us two games to get that back. So hopefully we learn from that. But it just shows you how easily the momentum can turn."

The Senators need to be ready for what they know will be coming. They expect to see a more aggressive Penguins team ready to stop any momentum the Senators might generate. They don't want it to spiral, to watch the Penguins do what the Rangers did and erase all the good the Senators did with their win in Game 1 of the conference final.

"We tried to limit them, but the reality is you're not going to limit those guys to nothing," Boucher said of the Penguins. "It's impossible. Those guys are too good. It's the Stanley Cup champions and we're expecting the next game they're going to be coming out roaring and at their very best."

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