PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Ottawa Senators have been here so many times before. A playoff series is there for them to win, yet they somehow lose.
No matter who is in net, they lose. No matter who skates on their blue line, or how many 50-goal scorers they have, they lose. Ten trips to the NHL postseason in the last 10 seasons, and still no appearances in the Stanley Cup finals.
When they twice lost third-period leads during their series-tying, 4-3 loss Saturday on home ice to the young, inexperienced but enormously talented Pittsburgh Penguins, the Senators could sense the doom and gloom among their fan base.
They could only guess what those rooters were feeling Sunday night when, less than a minute into the Penguins’ first home playoff game in nearly six years, Pittsburgh went ahead 1-0 on Gary Roberts’ goal.
Haven’t the Senators been here before?
Yes they have and, maybe, this time that experience is helping.
“To be composed and hang in there and play the way we had to play, I think that was a credit to our guys,” coach Bryan Murray said following his team’s pivotal 4-2 victory in Pittsburgh.
The Senators not only weathered Pittsburgh’s early run, they managed to tie it late in the first on Dean McAmmond’s goal. Once Daniel Alfredsson scored twice during a three-goal second period, the Senators sensed they had this one.
Now, the key for them is to not let another series get away.
“We should have probably buried them the other night and we didn’t, but we put it behind us and did tonight,” Jason Spezza said.
Now, it’s Pittsburgh that’s looking nervously at the front-runner, aware that a loss in the next game could effectively end the series. Or the same feeling the Senators had going into Game 3, with Pittsburgh in position to go up 3-1 by winning twice on its home ice.
“We can’t afford to get down 3-1,” the Penguins’ Gary Roberts said. “We know that. We’ve got to come out with a much better effort Tuesday.”
The Senators have been in control for all but 1 1/2 periods of the series, wining 6-3 in Game 1. Only this time, they have the victory and the series lead to prove it.
“We came into their territory and despite kind of falling behind really quick, we stuck to the game plan and played our type of game,” goalie Ray Emery said. “I thought we deserved that one (Saturday) and this time we carried it out.”
The Penguins were outshot 25-19 in the game and have been outshot 99-66 in the series. Sidney Crosby, the NHL scoring champion, had five shots, but didn’t score until Ottawa had long since seized control. Rookie star Evgeni Malkin didn’t score on his first four shots of the series.
“We have a lot of great forwards who can create offense, but we didn’t do it tonight and that’s why we lost the game,” defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. “Our offense stopped in the neutral zone too many times.”
The Senators dominated the second period much like they did in outscoring the Penguins 2-0 and outshooting them 19-5 in that period in Game 2.
“The difference was in the second period, where we didn’t miss a chance like we did yesterday (Saturday),” Spezza said.
The Senators got the go-ahead goal early in the second from Mike Comrie. Alfredsson then go his second and third goals of the series about 10 minutes apart, making Crosby’s third goal in three games late in the third essentially meaningless.
“We’ve got the momentum now and we would definitely like to keep it,” Alfredsson said.
Eaves was taken off the ice with an apparent concussion after Colby Armstrong leveled him with a shoulder hit during the second period. Armstrong was not penalized, and Eaves did not require hospitalization despite an apparent concussion. … Malkin, the rookie of the year favorite, has only four goals in his last 27 games, though he had more open ice Sunday that in the previous two games. … Senators D Christoph Schubert (neck) returned after missing most of Game 2.