Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 1-0 win against the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final…
*This game was a grind. The Sens aren't going to give you much ice with which to work. They're going to make you fight, claw and scrape for every inch. It's going to be frustrating, It's going to be taxing. It's going to be draining. But it's the price you have to pay to be successful in the playoffs.
The Pens paid that price in Game 2. They never wavered in their effort. They didn't allow frustration creep into their game. They dominated possession time and zone time, outshot the Sens, 29-23, and controlled the play.
Despite that dominance, the Pens managed to only score one goal (Phil Kessel). That was all they needed.
*Copy (from every other playoff game) and paste: Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant.
*As if the Pens weren't already wounded enough, they lost two more valuable players in Game 2. Forward Bryan Rust was knocked out in the first period from a crushing check by Dion Phaneuf.
The bigger blow occurred when defenseman Justin Schultz missed a check in his own zone and smashed into the end boards halfway through the opening frame. The Pens were forced to play with only five defensemen for the rest of the game.
But bigger picture, the Pens are now without their three best offensive defensemen and breakout passers in Schultz, Kris Letang (herniated disc) and Trevor Daley (lower-body).
*Speaking of those five defensemen, they did an incredible job of banding together to get the job done. Assistant coach Jacques Martin kept their shifts to 40-45 seconds and spread the workload so that no single player was overtaxed.
What really helped the blueliners was Pittsburgh's offensive zone dominance. When you're stuck in the defensive zone, it's incredibly taxing on the defensemen. But when you can play in the offensive zone, you can pick your spots and conserve your energy.
*Even though the Pens only had five defensemen, they still held Ottawa to just 23 total shots. More impressive they didn't surrender a shot in the first 15 minutes of the third period. The Sens made a late push of desperation, but still only recorded 13 shots in the final 40 minutes of the game.
Pittsburgh suffocated the Ottawa offense with just five D-men.
*The team's fourth line of Scott Wilson, Matt Cullen and Carter Rowney was arguably its best in Game 1. So much so that the coaching staff was double shifting them late in the third period because "they gave us energy," as Sullivan said.
They carried that play over into Game 2. With the Pens looking listless and needing a spark, an extended offensive zone shift in the second period by the fourth line would add some jump to the Pens' game. The rest of the lines followed suit.
And what a shift that was for Wilson, who recorded four hits in a 38-second span. That's right, four hits. That sequence revved up the crowd and his teammates.