KANATA, ONTARIO -- After losing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Ottawa Senators at home, the Penguins knew that to reclaim home-ice advantage they would need to win at least once at Scotiabank Place.
Apparently they decided it best to accomplish the feat sooner rather than later.
In its first road contest of the 2010 playoffs Pittsburgh, which entered the game having won three of the last four postseason games in Ottawa, added another notch in the victory column and made it four wins in the last five tries with a 4-2 triumph against the Senators in Game 3 in the Canadian capital.
“Both teams played very well,” Evgeni Malkin
said. “This building is tough. They have great fans. We deserve this win.”
“It was a close game with a lot of momentum shifts,” Bill Guerin said. “We played our game. We played a good game. So did Ottawa. It will be that type of series. … We’re meeting here in the playoffs for a reason.”
Pittsburgh now holds a 2-1 series advantage with Game 4 to be played at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night.
The win was a testament to a complete team effort. Nine players were etched on the score sheet and every player contributed in one form or another.
The superstars, of course, did their part. Sidney Crosby
, Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury
were the foundations for success.
Crosby showed once again why he is the best player in the National Hockey League. He broke the Senators’ spirits and gave the Penguins’ a 3-1 lead with a power-play goal with only 45 seconds remaining in the second period the proved to be the eventual game-winner.
Crosby darted out of the near corner, protected the puck as Ottawa’s Andy Sutton gave chase, manipulated goalie Brian Elliott to his knees and lifted a shot into the netting. He also added an assist for a two-point night and his NHL-leading seventh postseason point.
“I just tried to take it across the net and was able to hold onto it for a little bit,” Crosby said of the goal. “I was able to find an opening there.”
Malkin broke a 1-1 tie six minutes into the second period. He stole the puck in his own zone and skated the length of the ice. Malkin gained the Ottawa blue line, pushed the puck towards the net. Maxime Talbot got a shot on goal, and Malkin deposited the rebound across the goal line to give the Penguins a lead they would never relinquish.
“I shot the puck and Talbot supported me,” Malkin said. “He did a great job shooting the puck on his backhand. I had an empty to shoot into.”
Fleury, who was not happy with his performance in Game 1 of the series, has now put together back-to-back solid games in goal for Pittsburgh. He turned aside 20 shots and was a rock for the team.
Fleury’s best save came on a shot by Jason Spezza from the point in the third period with the Penguins leading 3-1. The puck hit something in front and trickled perilously toward the goal line. Fleury reached against his body and poked the puck out of danger.
“I got stuck in the guy in front of me,” Fleury said. “I was sliding the other way and saw the puck going slowly (toward the goal line). When I finally stopped I was able to reach for it.”
“That’s what he’s there for, to makes those big saves,” Crosby said. “We don’t always want to put that on him. But he’s done that for us time and time again. That’s the difference in the playoffs. That’s a big play for us.”
Other players that came through for Pittsburgh were Alexei Ponikarovsky, who scored the game’s opening goal 1:17 in the first period, and Bill Guerin, who looked more like a 25-year-old sniper with the breakaway move he made to give the Penguins a 4-1 lead.
Guerin caught the puck in the neutral zone and skated in all alone on goal. He stopped instantly atop the crease as Elliott fell to the ice. Guerin then pulled the puck wide before shooting it high into the net.
“I blacked out,” Guerin joked while trying to recall the play. “I was just trying to make the most of the opportunity.”
Thanks to the team effort, the Penguins now find themselves one lap ahead in the “race to four.”
“We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight,” Crosby said. “We played the right way. It’s nice to get a good result. They won’t be disappointed with the way that they played either. They had some good chances. It was a game that came down to execution. We made the most of our opportunities.”