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Stone, Senators rally past Penguins to stay alive

by Chris Stevenson /

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators are insisting on taking this race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference down to the wire.

Rookie forward Mark Stone scored two goals, including the winner at 2:43 of overtime, to keep the Senators' drive for the playoffs alive with a 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday.

Stone scored on a wrist shot to the top right corner after the Senators (41-26-13) forced overtime on Mike Hoffman's goal at 18:12 of the third period with goalie Andrew Hammond on the bench for an extra attacker.

The Penguins (42-26-12) led 3-0 before Jean-Gabriel Pageau's shorthanded goal, which bounced in off the skate of Pittsburgh defenseman Derrick Pouliot, at 14:41 of the second period. Stone scored his first of the night 34 seconds into the third period to make it 3-2.

Stone, bidding for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, has five goals in the past four games and scored the winner in the shootout against the Detroit Red Wings the game before his goal streak began.

"It's a credit to the guys in this locker room," said Stone, who has 24 goals. "Nobody gives up. Every night, we're finding ways to just keep battling.

"After the first period, we were down three goals, but there was still 40 minutes left, still a ton of hockey. Once [Pageau] got us on the board with a little bit of a lucky bounce, it really sparked us and gave us some comfortability. Once you get that early one in the third, it really tightens them up."

The Senators (95 points) and Boston Bruins each are two points behind the Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa is one point behind Pittsburgh, which holds the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who would have clinched a playoff spot with a win in regulation.

Crosby scored his 28th goal 10 seconds into the game. Beau Bennett and Patric Hornqvist also scored in the first period for a 3-0 Pittsburgh lead.

"If we would have got that fourth one, it would have been a much better situation," Crosby said. "They got a good bounce on the shorthanded one there in the second. We were probably guilty of sitting back a bit and making a few mistakes.

"We've got to wipe this one away. We've got two games left here to earn the right to play in the playoffs. It's up to us now."

Pittsburgh hosts the New York Islanders on Friday and visits the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

The Penguins lost for the fourth game in a row and are 3-8-2 in their past 13 games.

Ottawa outshot Pittsburgh 21-3 in the third period and overtime.

"We had a great first, and between periods we talked about it, we had to play the same way," said Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 40 saves. "They came out pretty hard and they competed until the end. It was a bit of a lucky bounce on the first goal for them and a couple of screens. We've got to find a way to keep battling until the end. They were hungry for the win and they got it.

"It will take a little while to swallow this game. After that, we have to put it behind and make sure we're ready for the game against Long Island. We need points. We need to win."

Hammond made 25 saves and is 18-1-2 as a starter in the NHL. He has helped the Senators to a 21-4-4 record since Feb. 10 when they were 14 points out of a playoff position.

"I think the confidence we've built up over this ride kind of gives us the ability to fight through situations where it seems like our backs are against the wall," Hammond said. "We've had our backs against the wall this whole time, trying to make the playoffs.

"Tonight doesn't necessarily change that, but we just keep proving that we can keep fighting with them there."

The Senators host the New York Rangers on Thursday and visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

The Penguins lost Pouliot after two periods because of an undisclosed injury, and Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said fatigue was a factor in the third period for the remaining Penguins defenders.

Johnston said the Penguins have to shake the game off and focus on the positives of their situation.

"The way we played tonight, we did a lot of good things through three quarters of the game," he said. "They scored on a pulled goaltender situation at the end of the game. We're still in the playoff hunt. We control our destiny. We just have to take care of our own business and we were that close to doing it tonight, a minute and 30 (seconds) away from it, and we didn't close it out."

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