Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 3-2 win against the Senators in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at Canadian Tire Centre.
*This is the game Pittsburgh was expected to play against Ottawa. The Pens tilted the ice in their favor, dominated possession time and played most of the contest in the offensive zone.
The Sens still played strong structurally in their defensive zone, keeping the Pens on the perimeter. But the Pens remained patient and used some timely scored - and finally a good bounce off of Dion Phaneuf's skate - to even this series at 2-2.
Pittsburgh clamped down and held on for the victory, withstanding Ottawa's late third-period surge. The Senators can print those tickets for Game 6.
*Head coach Mike Sullivan made a surprise switch in goal by starting Matt Murray, his first start since April 6 in the regular season. Murray was impressive immediately, making a split pad save on Derick Brassard early in the first period. Murray also denied Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has eight goals this playoffs, all alone in the slot in the second period.
Murray's early saves and calming influence helped keep the Pens above water until they could assert their offensive firepower and build a 3-0 lead, which they would never relinquish.
*The Pens scored 3 goals in Games 1, 2 and 3 combined. They notched 3 goals in Game 4 alone. A power-play tally and some support from the backend where the major factors. Olli Maatta scored his first career playoff goal and Brian Dumoulin added his first of this year's postseason to help the cause.
*Speaking of Maatta, he has really elevated his play this postseason beginning halfway through the Second Round against Washington. He's been one of the team's best defenders in this conference finals and his play hasn't gone unnoticed.
*The defensemen, once again, were forced to play most of the game with just 5 men. Chad Ruhwedel was injured in the final seconds of the first period after Bobby Ryan checked him in the corner.
Unfortunately, this group has had a lot of practice at playing with just 5 players. Still, it's grueling and taxing minutes that these guys had to shoulder and they once again battle through it without blinking.
*Ian Cole responded to Ruhwedel's injury by jumping Ryan on the play. Although Cole received a penalty for his actions and the Pens were shorthanded, it was encouraging to see the Pens sticking up for each other. The PKers had Cole's back and killed the penalty.
*The Pens' "Just Play" mantra helped the team score a goal. After goalie Craig Anderson covered a puck, Sidney Crosby took a swipe. Pageau responded by putting Crosby in a headlock. As a result, Pageau was given a roughing penalty and Pittsburgh went on the power play.
The Pens converted their first power-play goal of the series when Crosby, of course, was able to poke the puck across the goal line while camped out on the post. It was Crosby's patience that drew the penalty, then he finished the play by scoring the goal.
*Pittsburgh's PK did a fantastic job in the contest, killing all 4 of Ottawa's power plays. They were at their best in the final 34.3 seconds left in regulation. Murray made a big stop on Erik Karlsson and Nick Bonino made a huge block on Mike Hoffman at the buzzer.