They say that a series does not officially begin until a home team loses a game in their building. If that’s the case then the first-round Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the Penguins and Ottawa Senators can officially commence following the Senators’ 5-4 victory in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
However, nobody in the Ottawa locker room was willing to concede that they have any sort of edge heading into Friday night’s second game. Ottawa’s mantra heading into the postseason is to take each series one game at a time.
“We had a good first game and we want to build off that and have a good second game,” said Chris Kelly, who had a goal and two helpers in Game 1. “We don’t want to look any further than tonight. We want to come out and have our best effort.”
“We have to keep it simple,” said Jarkko Ruutu, who score the game-winner in Game 1. “To be honest, what happened last game doesn’t matter tonight.”
Historically, teams which fall behind 0-2 in a series by losing the first two games at home generally do not rally to win the series, although ironically, the only time the Penguins have fallen behind by such a deficit at home, during the 1996 opening round against Washington, the Penguins came back to sweep the next four to take the series. Pittsburgh will be fighting to make sure they don’t have to repeat history against the Senators.
“They are going to come out with their best game and we are too,” Kelly said. “It’s going to be an exciting game and a fun one to play. We will see what happens.”
“We know they are going to be a desperate team tonight,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “We have to make sure we come and just play a really good game. We have to make it hard on them. Hopefully we can get the lead and put a lot more pressure on them. A good start is important.”
While the Penguins have obviously talked in their locker room about what they have to do better against the Senators, Ottawa feels that although they ended up on the winning side in Game 1, they have some work to do as well if they want to put the Penguins into a precarious hole.
“We can’t give them some of the opportunities we gave them last game,” Mike Fisher said. “We are looking at it the same way because we know they are going to come at us hard so we have to be ready.”
“We have to be ready tonight,” Jason Spezza said. “We have to put the first one behind us. We’re happy with the win, but we’re looking for two wins here.”
Foligno Promoted to Second Line
Milan Michalek’s loss is Nick Foligno’s gain.
Michalek, Ottawa’s third-leading goal scorer during the regular season with 22, will miss the remainder of the postseason after tearing the ACL in his left knee on Wednesday. Foligno, a third-year pro, will take his place on the Senators’ second line next to veterans Fisher and Matt Cullen.
“Cully and Fisher are great players,” Foligno said. “They have a lot of experience. I just want to come in, help and work hard and get them the puck.”
Although Friday night will be Foligno’s sixth career postseason contest, and as recently as last season he was a 17-goal scorer for Ottawa, he says there will be some nerves as he takes the ice tonight.
“I’m still nervous,” Foligno said. “It’s a playoff game but it’s good nerves. I just want to go out. I know what I can do. I want to be able to help the situation. It’s more responsibility but I welcome it. I want to do well. Our line is going to have to work hard and continue to play well like we did in the first game.”
Foligno has worked hard against the Penguins this season, tying for the team lead with four points (1G-3A) in three games against Pittsburgh. When he was playing well in those games, Foligno, who possesses a strong lower body, was working the puck below the goal line and making it difficult for the Penguins to knock him off the puck. Both Foligno and Fisher expect much of the same this time around.
“I know what I’m capable of,” Foligno said. “I just have to continue working hard. … I want to help the team win. That’s why I’m up there, to help the team win. I just have to work hard every shift like I did in the first game.”
“I have played with him a lot this year,” Fisher said. “He is a guy who cycles the puck well and can drive the net to make things happen. I think he is going to do a great job for us.”
Michalek spoke to reporters in the Senators locker room to discuss his season-ending knee injury following the morning skate on Friday. Michalek completely tore his left knee sometime during the middle of Game 1, which was just his third game back after missing nine consecutive contests between March 20-April 6 due to a previous injury to the knee.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Michalek said. “I got injured a month ago and I tried to come back really hard. Unfortunately I got hurt the other day and it’s bad now.
“They asked me if I would try (to play after the original injury) and I said for sure because it’s the playoffs. That is what you play for. I tried it and it felt good when I was playing, but a Pittsburgh player fell on my knee.”
Michalek said he was not sure which Penguin fell into his knee, but he did say that there was no malicious intent on the play and that it was just one of those freak collisions which occurs throughout the course of a game.
“It was nobody’s fault,” Michalek said. “He just fell into my leg.”