Pens defeat Senators, take commanding 3-0 series lead

| Tuesday, April 15, 2008

OTTAWA -- Seven weeks have passed since general manager Ray Shero stunned the hockey world - including fans in Canada's capital city - by acquiring star right wing Marian Hossa.

A lot of people, including many fans in Pittsburgh, considered that move a risk. Critics suggested Hossa was a rental player. Skeptics labeled him a playoff underachiever. Pundits wondered if he could develop chemistry with captain Sidney Crosby.

Seems kind of silly now, doesn't it?

Hossa scored his first playoff goal in four years and assisted on another to fuel the Penguins' 4-1 victory Monday against the Ottawa Senators in Game 3 at Scotiabank Place.

"He can't score in the playoffs, right?" said right wing Pascal Dupuis, acquired Feb. 26 from Atlanta along with Hossa, for forwards Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, prospect Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first-round pick.

"He struggled last season (with Atlanta), but that was four games. Look what he's done through three games this year."

Hossa is second to only Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin for the team lead in playoff scoring, with five points, and the Penguins are ahead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series, 3-0.

They can sweep the Senators with a victory Wednesday in Game 4.

Last season, Hossa recorded only an assist with Atlanta as the Thrashers were swept by the New York Rangers in the opening round.

He likes Ottawa, where he began his NHL career. Still, Hossa was happy to send a sellout crowd home disheartened last night.

"It is nice to finally get that first goal and have a good game - especially in this building," Hossa said. "The most important thing is we are up, 3-0, and that's what counts."

Goaltending counts, too, and the Penguins are fine in that department.

Marc-Andre Fleury continued to silence his critics with a 33-save performance. He has stopped 86 of 90 shots in the series - a .955 save percentage that follows a .948 effort to close the regular season after returning Feb. 28 from a lengthy absence due to a high right ankle sprain.

Crosby credited Fleury last night with keeping the Penguins in the game early.

Ottawa, energized by playing at home for the first time in the series and the return of captain Daniel Alfredsson from a knee injury, was intent on making a statement in the first period. But Fleury turned aside each of the Senators' 14 shots, and the Penguins entered the first intermission with confidence.

"We kind of looked at it as a period won because we were 0-0," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "We said, 'That's the best they've got.' We kind of weathered the storm, and after (forward Max) Talbot scored, we started playing the right way."

Talbot answered Ottawa left wing Nick Foligno's goal with his first career playoff tally at 5:39 of the second period.

Hossa's nifty pass set up that goal. Crosby scored his first of the series 12 seconds into the third period and Hossa followed center Jordan Staal's goal at 1:30 with a power-play score at 8:55.

The Penguins were only 1 for 8 on the power play, but Hossa's advantage goal may have sealed the playoff fate of his former club.

"I know most of those guys, and they're going to want to win another game at home," Hossa said. "It's going to be crucial. ... We have to be ready."

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