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Senators don't push back enough against Penguins in Game 2

Ottawa knows it's capable of more after loss ties Eastern Conference Final

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The Ottawa Senators believed they had learned from their past mistakes, when they allowed the New York Rangers to stomp all over them in Game 3 and Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round, pushing a pushback that the Senators were unable to withstand.

As it turns out, the Senators hadn't learned as much as they thought. Or, at least, they weren't able to convert on their lessons.

Because once the Pittsburgh Penguins came at them in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, once the pressure increased and the ice tilted, the Senators weren't exactly able to counter it, the game-winning goal for the Penguins seemingly inevitable.

It came, finally, at 13:05 of the third period, off the stick of Phil Kessel during an extended stretch in which the Senators were repeatedly forced from the offensive zone. They did not have a shot on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from 16:13 of the second period through 15:06 of the third.

During that 18:53 of ice time, the Penguins had nine shots on Senators goalie Craig Anderson.


[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Senators series coverage]


"Our third period wasn't good enough," Senators coach Guy Boucher said after the 1-0 loss at PPG Paints Arena on Monday, which tied this best-of-7 series at 1-1. "Theirs was really good. They were surging. They were pressing. And we didn't manage it as well as we could."

Which brings them back to needing to find answers, both to combat the forcefulness of the Penguins' offensive game and to maintain their own aggressiveness in trying to get on the board.

It wasn't quite there on Monday. As Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau said, "I don't think we're satisfied with our effort."

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm2: Anderson stops Bonino's long wrister

"We're going to look at some clips and find a way to do a better job of generating," Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "They kind of took over the game and pushed us and we didn't find our usual pushback until about the last six minutes of the game.

"It starts with us as D-men; we've got to make plays to give our forwards the puck in the right spots to break out clean and to get zone time in their end. And when we do get it there, we've got to get pucks to the net. It's probably the same thing that every team says."

The Senators are more than comfortable in close games. That, after all, is how they've reached the conference final. They are 8-3 in one-goal games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But they need to push back more, which they didn't do until the final few minutes of the third period.

"We've got to have more pressure," Senators forward Clarke MacArthur said. "We had it at the end of the game, but of course you're going to have it then. A lot of times in the game it was chip it in and we're changing, it wasn't chipping and going. That happens. Tough team to play against."

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm2: Anderson robs Wilson's great chance

There was particular disappointment, considering the Penguins were down to five defensemen after Justin Schultz sustained an undisclosed injury midway through the first period.

But the pucks that the Senators managed to put on net did not challenge Fleury enough. He made 23 saves, including six in the second period and seven in the third, when he had to endure long periods of inactivity.

And the Penguins poured it on, while the Senators were unable to find the balance that their game and their system requires of them, becoming too passive in the face of the onrushing opponent.

"They've got some really good players that turned it on, and they were hard to manage," Boucher said. "I thought we didn't manage the puck well on our breakouts at all. We gave the puck away a lot. We threw the puck away and it created some momentum in our zone for the opponent.

"When you look at the two games, we played five good periods out of six, and the third period cost us the game tonight."

Still, the Senators weren't entirely frustrated with their output in the two games in Pittsburgh. They head back to Ottawa with the best-of-7 series tied. A split was always their main goal, which they accomplished while holding the Penguins to two goals in two games.

They allowed one goal on Monday, as frustrating as it was. As Anderson said, "I caught an edge. Simple as that, which [stinks]. Forward or defenseman catches an edge, he falls down, nothing happens. I catch an edge, it's in the net. [Stinks]."

That disappointment aside, the Senators are headed back home to Ottawa with the knowledge that they can keep up with the Penguins - even if they didn't withstand the pushback, even if they didn't exactly convert on the lessons they said they learned. There are more lessons, and they believe they will have time to figure out how to absorb them.

Game 3 is Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"At the end of the day, we did our job," MacArthur said. "We got one here. Those tight games, you want to win. But we're hockey players, we're not that dumb. We knew we weren't going to get four in a row."

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