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Pens defensemen contribute at both ends of ice

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Entering Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, the Pens players and coach were asked about the lack of depth scoring.

And each time, they laughed and said at this point, they would take scoring from anyone, as they had just three goals in the first three games.

Well, they got both of that on Friday at the Canadian Tire Centre, as a couple of unlikely sources of offense in defensemen Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin chipped in a pair of goals in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win that evened the series at 2-2.

"I'm not sure if you asked me before the game those were two of the guys that came to mind, but certainly we're thrilled for those guys and for our team," head coach Mike Sullivan said with a smile.

Maatta's tally was the first of his postseason career, coming in his 47th game.

"Getting a goal is nice," Maatta said. "It feels awesome. It's really exciting to score those goals in a big stage like this." 

With under a minute left to play in the first period, Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby - the Pens' other goal scorer - started a rush up the ice and Maatta joined them.

Guentzel pushed the puck up to Crosby, who slid it over to Maatta. He caught Craig Anderson off his angle and put a shot between the goalie and the post.

"You know what, I think we just did a good job getting the puck up," Maatta said. "I saw an opportunity to get up the ice. When the puck goes to Sid you always want to be skating because he can make those plays. So I think it was a great play by Sid and I just saw something there and put it at the net."

Dumoulin's tally was the third of his postseason career, coming in his 45th game. And he got some help on his, scored over halfway through the second period.

Dumoulin just put the puck on net and it deflected off the skate of Sens defenseman Dion Phaneuf and in. Not the prettiest, but he'll take it.

"It was a fortunate bounce," Dumoulin said. "I was just trying to put a puck back door and hope for some luck. Fortunately it went in off Dion's skate."

Not only were the Pens defensemen contributing in the offensive zone; they were taking care of the defensive zone despite playing one short for two periods.

Right after Maatta's goal, Sens winger Bobby Ryan laid a huge hit on Chad Ruhwedel. He went to the locker room and did not return, and Sullivan said afterward he had been diagnosed with a concussion and would be re-evaluated in Pittsburgh.

So a blue line already without Kris Letang and Justin Schultz that's dealt with numerous injuries throughout the regular and postseason continued to have that resilience and response to adversity.

"Any time a D-man goes down it seems like we come together," Dumoulin said. "It seems like our forwards make that extra effort to come back and get in lanes and make it easier for us to change. And it's never easy playing with five D, but we've done it before and I think we did a good job of keeping our shifts short and just trying to get pucks out and keep the game simple."

Sullivan couldn't have been more impressed with the overall effort he got from his blueliners.

"Our defense corps is a quiet group. They just go about their business," Sullivan said before adding with a smile, "We have plenty of vocal guys at the forward position so there's only so much air time to go around, whether it be on the bench or in the locker room. But these guys just quietly go about their business and they're a competitive group. We go to five defensemen as early as we did in the game, once again the five guys just find ways to continue to be competitive and help us win."

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