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Coach's analysis: Senators played with purpose vs. Penguins in Game 3

Former NHL assistant Jim Corsi says Ottawa came out energized against Pittsburgh en route to taking 2-1 lead in Eastern Conference Final

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.

 

When former NHL goaltending coach Jim Corsi watched the Ottawa Senators score four goals in the first 12:52 of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, he thought back to the passive Senators he watched for most of the second half of Game 2 on Monday.

He instantly had an analogy.

"It reminded me of a Charles Dickens story, 'A Tale of Two Cities,'" Corsi said. "It was a case of energy in [in Game 3] versus indecisive reaction [in Game 2]. It was a case of quickness to play [in Game 3] versus indecision [in Game 2]. Contrary to the rope-a-dope, wait-and-see third period of Game 1, and basically the second half mostly of Game 2, this time the Senators came out with a purpose."

Forward Mike Hoffman scored 48 seconds into the game. Then defenseman Marc Methot scored at 10:34, sparking a run of three goals in 2:18 to give Ottawa a four-goal lead on the way to a 5-1 win against the Penguins.

The Senators lead the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is at Canadian Tire Centre on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"It was a regeneration of the game plan, but with purpose," Corsi said. "They came out energized and maybe caught the energy of being home but applied the whole lesson plan through 200 feet. That would be the best way of describing it. They applied the same lesson plan for 200 feet."

Video: Recapping the Senators' Game 3 win vs. the Penguins

Following Game 2, a 1-0 Pittsburgh win, Corsi pointed out the Senators' inability to control the neutral zone because it couldn't control the Penguins' speed entries. He said Ottawa would have to regain control of the neutral zone to have a chance at winning the series.

That happened in Game 3 because of the Senators' ability to push the pace right from the opening faceoff, most often by having their second man in on the forecheck beat the Penguins' second man in and their third man in play high in the zone as either a pass option or a safety valve.

"You watch the game closely, how many times there is a scrum and they don't whack it, they bump it and move it to a soft spot, and there is always an Ottawa Senators player there," Corsi said. "So even on the forecheck, there was one man in, second man if he had a chance dove in, and the third man was high. If the second man wasn't going, the third man recoiled to block up the middle."

Corsi said the trust the Senators have in their third forward high in the zone, known as the F3, was evident on Methot's goal that put Ottawa ahead 2-0.

The Penguins allowed Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson to skate the puck up to the red line, pushing them back. Ottawa forward Clarke MacArthur chipped Karlsson's pass into the zone, and center Derick Brassard got to it first.

Brassard took the puck through the right circle and then around the net, up the left-wing half-wall. Meanwhile, MacArthur set up high in the zone as the F3, so Methot could safely come down from the left point. He eventually scored on a deflected shot from the slot.

"That trust in the responsible F3 allowed an active D to press," Corsi said. "Where is Methot? What's he doing at the hash marks? Well, it was on a chip in, their guy went behind the net, went around, quick shot, rebound and suddenly it's a goal. You go, 'Well, what happened?' I don't want to break down Pittsburgh's game, but I think that was the change from Ottawa."

On the flip side, the Senators did not allow the Penguins to come out at them with any speed, nor did they give them multiple rush chances. Corsi said he counted one rush chance against Ottawa.

Video: PIT@OTT, Gm3: Anderson kicks out pad to deny Malkin

He said the Senators had a 12-9 advantage in scoring chances, but it was 6-0 before Pittsburgh even got one. Ottawa already had a 4-0 lead.

"Then they applied their typical keep-them-off-balance-and-wait-for-mistakes game," Corsi said. "It's a 1-4, a 1-3-1 and at times it's a 0-5, and they contest the puck-carrier at the red line. Pittsburgh is trying to generate speed, but they are met with a wall.

"It took Pittsburgh 18 minutes to get its first chance. It took 44 minutes for [center] Sidney Crosby to get a chance, and that was on the power play. The Senators were quicker. There was no indecision."

Corsi said the Senators will have to expect a pushback from the Penguins in Game 4. He thinks it will come in the chip-and-chase game.

"You see the effectiveness of Pittsburgh's fourth line," Corsi said. "They're forechecking. They're tenacious. They're throwing the puck at the net. They're creating uncertainty. That to me is what the Senators are going to expect. It's all going to be defined by the guy who is not on the puck. Generally, the guy who dumps the puck in is the guy who chases it down. The second man with speed, that will be the race to watch in the first 10 minutes."

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