Daniel Alfredsson had the diagnosis for what ailed the Ottawa Senators penalty kill in Game 1 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“The goals they got were scramble goals,” he said after the 4-1 loss, in which the Penguins tallied two power-play goals. “We've got to be stronger in front of our net."
Stronger, the Senators have been: They’ve shut down the best power-play unit still playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (27 percent conversion rate) to the tune of one goal in their last 12 chances. Ottawa's penalty kill went 6-for-6 in Game 3, and has gone 9-for-9 overall. That included a 5-on-3 kill against the Penguins in the second period, during which they only had two shots.
Oh, yeah: There was also the matter of that Daniel Alfredsson shorthanded goal that knotted Game 3 with 29 seconds left. That too.
Again, this is a Senators team stifling a Penguins power play that has slightly fewer stars than “This Is The End.” The kind of all-star unit you’d compile through trades, create-a-player and waiver wire chicanery on a hockey video game.
Can the Senators keep the kill going in Wednesday night’s Game 4?
Ottawa has the ninth best PK in the postseason (82.9 percent) after leading the NHL in shorthanded effectiveness in the regular season (88.0 percent on 167 times shorthanded).
The rocks defensively for the Ottawa shorthanded unit have been Marc Methot and Chris Phillips, the only two Sens averaging over 3 minutes per game on the PK.
But other than those two, the Sens share the wealth: They have nine players that are averaging over a minute per game on the penalty kill through eight games this postseason. Among them: Kyle Turris (2:11 on average) and Alfredsson (2:00).
Goalie Craig Anderson’s numbers shorthanded weren’t stellar in the regular season or through the seven games of the playoffs, but he did make 12 saves shorthanded in his 49-save series-salvaging victory in Game 3.
What’s been the key against an all-star Penguins power play that includes Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz, among others?
"We've struggled the last couple of games against them," Methot said. "We wanted to be a lot more aggressive, I don't know if we were, but it seemed like we had more success tonight.
"It discourages a team when they don't get things going early, especially when you have a talented group like that."
The Penguins, who would be up 3-0 right now had the power-play not failed them in Game 3, are expected to add Jussi Jokinen to the man advantage unit for Game 4. So there’s a new challenge for Ottawa.
But the most effective penalty kill is, of course, not having to kill a penalty. As Coach Paul MacLean said: “They have some very good players they can put out there. Taking six minor penalties in a game isn't going to be very successful for us.”