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Playoff Buzz: Penguins, Senators get ready for Game 7

Pittsburgh hoping injured players return Thursday; Ottawa needs big effort from goalie Craig Anderson

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators is Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). NHL.com writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news. Here is the playoff news for Wednesday:

 

3:45 p.m.
Penguins have fond Game 7 memories

The Pittsburgh Penguins were in the same position last postseason. They hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final and won 2-1 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. They went on to win their third Stanley Cup championship.

With that memory fresh in their minds, they're feeling good about their chances against the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Staff writer Tom Gulitti writes about some of Pittsburgh's past Game 7 experiences, including their 2-0 road win in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals in the second round.

The Penguins did not skate Wednesday before flying home to Pittsburgh following their 2-1 loss in Game 6 on Tuesday, but coach Mike Sullivan expressed hope that defenseman Justin Schultz and right wing Patric Hornqvist will be able to return from upper-body injuries for Game 7.

Beyond the matchups and intangibles that might decide the winner in Game 7, the Penguins believe they have a force on their side that could be the deciding factor: Sidney Crosby. Gulitti writes about the run that Crosby has been on lately in the NHL and on the international stage, and why it's probably not wise to bet against him.

After a 7-0 loss in Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Sunday, it would have been understandable if the Senators' confidence was shaken. By the time they got back to Ottawa on Sunday, they had put that loss behind them and believed they could bounce back to win the series. Senior writer Dan Rosen takes you inside Dion Phaneuf's and Clarke MacArthur's faith-affirming drive home from the airport Sunday.

Goaltender Craig Anderson rebounded from being pulled in Game 5 and kept Ottawa's Stanley Cup hopes alive with 45 saves in Game 6. He'll likely have to be just as good in Game 7 for the Senators to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 10 years. Correspondent Chris Stevenson writes about Anderson's thoughts on his game and what it will take to win Game 7.

 

12:53 p.m.
Penguins hoping for Game 7 reinforcements

The Pittsburgh Penguins flew home Wednesday morning, but not before coach Mike Sullivan said a couple of their injured players might be ready to return for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Pittsburgh hopes to have top-four defenseman Justin Schultz and forward Patric Hornqvist available for Game 7, and NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti reports that Sullivan said "it's reasonable" to expect Schultz or Hornqvist in the lineup Thursday. Each has missed time because of with an upper-body injury.

Goaltender Craig Anderson is the biggest reason this series was extended to seven games; he made 45 saves in the Senators' 2-1 win in Game 6. Former NHL assistant Jim Corsi, who's analyzing the series for NHL.com, told Senior Writer Dan Rosen that Anderson proved he has the ability to "function under the heightened value of the game," which he said is crucial to playoff success for a goaltender. But Corsi also told Rosen that the Penguins' strategy of attacking down low did a good job of generating scoring chances during Game 6, and that the best way for the Penguins to win Game 7 and earn a trip to the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators is to stick with it. The Penguins dominated play for most of Game 6, and Anderson's brilliance is what gave the Senators a chance to win.

 

9:32 a.m.
Craig Anderson keeps Senators alive

If there is one thing the Stanley Cup Playoffs have taught us, it's that momentum doesn't carry from one game to the next. The Ottawa Senators are living proof of that lesson.

The Senators defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday, two days after losing 7-0 in Game 5.

Goalie Craig Anderson, who got pulled twice in Game 5, made 45 saves to keep the Senators' season alive.

It was the third time during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs that a team won a game after losing the previous one by six or more goals; the Edmonton Oilers did it against the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round, and the Anaheim Ducks did it against the Oilers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round.

The Senators and Penguins will play Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Here is look at what happened Monday:

 

Ottawa Senators 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

Forward Mike Hoffman broke a 1-1 tie at 1:34 of the third period and Anderson did the rest to get Ottawa even in the series and force a Game 7.

The Penguins took a 1-0 lead at 4:51 of the second period on a goal by Evgeni Malkin, but Senators forward Bobby Ryan tied the game during a 5-on-3 power play at 13:15 of the second period.

The Penguins are 9-7 all-time in Game 7s but 3-7 at home. This is their second Game 7 of the 2017 playoffs. They defeated the Washington Capitals 2-0 on May 10 to advance to the conference final.

The Senators are 0-5 in Game 7s, 0-4 on the road. This is their first Game 7 since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, when they lost 2-1 at the New York Rangers.

Senior writer Dan Rosen wrote about Anderson's season-saving performance.

It was a frustrating night for the Penguins, who carried play most of the night, outshooting the Senators, 46-30. Staff writer Tom Gulitti has the Penguins' story.

Video: Senators force Game 7 with 2-1 victory

 

Here are some things we learned on Day 40 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: 

Craig Anderson has no trouble bouncing back

Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson was pulled twice in Game 5 on Sunday, including for good after the first period. He allowed four goals on 14 shots in what became a 7-0 loss that put the Senators on the brink of elimination. Anderson responded with a postseason-high 45 saves in a 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 on Tuesday, pushing the Senators into Game 7 with his brilliance.

Ottawa can win the special-teams battle

The Senators have been talking for a while about how important it would be to win the special-teams battle just once. It finally happened in Game 6 and, lo and behold, they won the game too. The Senators scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal, their first power-play goal in 11 games. They were 0-for-29 since scoring in Game 1 of the second round against the New York Rangers. The Senators also killed all three Penguins power plays. They let the Penguins go 3-for-3 on the power play in Game 5 and 4-for-5 in the previous two games.

Penguins still need that killer instinct

Dating to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins are 0-for-4 in their first chance to close out an opponent when they are leading a series. The Penguins are 2-4 in potential closeout games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They had a 3-0 series lead against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round but lost Game 4 before winning Game 5. They had a 3-1 lead against the Washington Capitals in the second round but lost Games 5 and 6 before winning Game 7. Now they're in Game 7 against the Senators because they couldn't win Game 6. The Penguins also had a 3-1 lead against the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final last year but lost Game 5 before winning the Stanley Cup in Game 6 at San Jose.

Pittsburgh has no reason to panic

The Penguins lost, which is all that really will be remembered from Game 6. But they played well and dominated the game at times. They outshot the Senators 46-30, including 23-10 in the second period, when the ice seemed to be tilted toward their offensive zone. This series is going to Game 7 because the Penguins couldn't close out the Senators in Game 6, but there is no reason for panic. Odds are if the Penguins put the same game on the ice Thursday in Pittsburgh that they did in Ottawa on Tuesday, they'll be in good shape to clinch a second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

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