Live at Game 4: Penguins 3, Senators 2 final
Remember in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final when Phil Kessel barked at Evgeni Malkin, and after the Penguins won the idea of arguments on the bench became something worth tolerating if not embracing, at least from coach Mike Sullivan's perspective?
During Friday's Game 4 at Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa took its turn to get caught squabbling on camera, as Erik Karlsson ripped into Kyle Turris. With the Penguins able to hold onto their lead and win 3-2 to even the series at two games apiece, how will the Senators spin their public spat?
Karlsson did his part to put Ottawa in position for a comeback, as his slap shot from the point snaked through traffic, deflected off of Tom Pyatt and snuck past Matt Murray with five minutes remaining in regulation.
Murray, though not tested particularly often by Ottawa, needed to deliver several high-quality stops to keep the Senators' hopes of a rally at bay. The Penguins' defense allowed Ottawa to get to the net front for shot attempts.
Keep this up and the lead won't last pic.twitter.com/q1rhN0QzcD— Brad T (@Sammich_BLT) May 20, 2017
Sidney Crosby's power-play goal in Wednesday's Game 3 loss meant very little, as it came far too late to help the Penguins in their comeback effort against Ottawa.
His tally with the man advantage midway through the second period of Friday's Game 4 mattered a great deal, as it represented a breakthrough for a team that finished with one goal in each of its last five games against the Senators.
Crosby poked a shot inside the far post after corraling a cross-crease feed from Jake Guentzel to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead with 12 minutes and 19 seconds left in the second period.
The Penguins captain also drew the penalty that led to the power-play goal, as he ended up in a headlock from Ottawa's J.G. Pageau, who earned a two-minute roughing minor 58 seconds before Crosby's goal.
Brian Dumoulin followed less than four minutes later with a goal that bounced off of Ottawa defenseman Dion Phaneuf's skate and past goalie Craig Anderson. His goal was the first of the playoffs and second of the season.
Puck goes in off the skate of Dion Phaneuf. Malkin turns around and makes sure he knows it pic.twitter.com/Lk7q1uGl9l— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 20, 2017
After stopping the first 15 shots that came his way, Penguins goalie Matt Murray lost his chance at a shutout with less than two minutes left before the second intermission when Clarke MacArthur cut to the crease and redirected a pass from Bobby Ryan to beat the netminder to the far side.
As Tribune-Review beat writer Jonathan Bombulie observed at the start of Game 4, it's an unfortunate time to play hockey right-handed for the Penguins.
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel further confirmed that theory when he did not return to the Penguins' bench for the start of the second period after taking a hit to the head late in the first.
An injury for Ruhwedel would leave the Penguins desperately low on righties. Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz are also ailing and absent from the lineup at the halfway point of the Eastern Conference final. Tom Kuhnhackl is the lone injured (or at least unavailable) lefty.
Olli Maatta, as responsible as any of the Penguins' defenseman for getting pucks to the net in recent weeks, finally sent a shot inside the goal late in the first period of Game 4 against Ottawa to give the visitors at Canadian Tire Centre a 1-0 lead.
Maatta's goal was his first since Jan. 18 and his second of the season. He buried it with 46 seconds left in the opening frame after Chris Kunitz pressured Erik Karlsson into a rushed zone exit and Sidney Crosby led a counterattack with a little speed before finding Maatta on the left wing.
The defenseman finished with at least one shot on goal in five of his last six games.
Maraya shot, kitha GOAL! A last minute effort by the Penguins ends up in a reward pic.twitter.com/vguEHh5q2i— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) May 20, 2017
Offense from the defenseman became a bit of a theme for the Penguins, who had 14 shots on goal, including six from blueliners, through 20 minutes of play. At the other end of the ice, the defensemen needed to tighten up their structure after allowing Ottawa to generate several high-quality scoring chances.
Penguins made an otherwise even first period look favorable with that power play. They need to reduce the quality of OTT's scoring chances. pic.twitter.com/3O1ueN1uV1— Bill West (@BWest_Trib) May 20, 2017
Chad Ruhwedel, responsible for two of the Penguins' shots on goal, left the ice slowly after he received an ugly check into the end boards from Bobby Ryan just before time expired. Ian Cole rushed to Ruhwedel's defense and shoved Ryan down to the ice. He earned a two-minute roughing minor for the act, while Ryan's hit went unpenalized.
Ruhwedel did not return to the Penguins bench for the start of the second period.
Bobby Ryan takes out Chad Ruhwedelwith a controversial hit. pic.twitter.com/BQ8AKJKzSC— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) May 20, 2017
Matt Murray's lower body, unwell from the start of the playoffs until about a week ago, held up under significant strain when he sprawled with an extended right leg to deny Ottawa's Derick Brassard at the right post earlier in the period..
Murray, in his just his third period of action and first start since April 6, made an initial stop on Bobby Ryan but quickly readjusted his body to stay in position against Brassard.
Ryan creates a quality chance but Murray looks calm so far. Good save. pic.twitter.com/HpsUSSmwlL— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) May 20, 2017
The Penguins built up some momentum in the opening period with a productive but ultimately scoreless power play in which they generated four shots and five attempts.
Nice passing sequence on the PP. pic.twitter.com/IiVeUfe7zz— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) May 20, 2017
What a knob. pic.twitter.com/rxYPu9621P— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) May 20, 2017
In their pursuit of a Stanley Cup defense, the Penguins opted to entrust goaltending duties in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final to the guy who served as the starting netminder in the playoffs a season ago.
Matt Murray emerged as the starter after more than 24 hours of secrecy and the sharing of non-committal sentiments from the Penguins, who trail Ottawa, 2-1, in the series entering Friday's Game 4 at Canadian Tire Centre.
Marc-Andre Fleury returns to the backup role he held prior to Murray agitating a lower-body injury in the warm-ups of the first-round opener. He lost his spot after allowing four goals on nine shots faced in Game 3 on Wednesday, and coach Mike Sullivan gave no indication on whether that performance alone cost the veteran goalie his job or if the switch to Murray simply represented the culmination of a plan the coaching staff initiated days earlier.
Neither Murray nor Fleury offers much help to an offense that continues to struggle against Ottawa, which has held the Penguins to one goal in each of the teams' last five meetings.
"All we can control is just the process, you know, trying to play the game the right way, trying to take what the game gives you," Sullivan said of his team's scoring shortage. "We've got to shoot the puck when we have opportunities. We've got to go to the net when we have opportunities to go to the net. We've got to compete for rebounds. I think, if we do that, we'll find ways to score goals.
"You'd like to get some contributions throughout your lineup. I think that makes teams more difficult to play against, and it certainly increases your chances of winning games when you get production throughout your lineup."
Bryan Rust, Patric Hornqvist, Tom Kuhnhackl and Justin Schultz — all sidelined with injuries — are unavailable for Game 4, so expecting offense from the Penguins' bottom-six forwards and blueline remains a little unrealistic.
Moving things around for Game Four. Here are your Penguins lines. Archibald with his playoff debut. Let's Go Pens! pic.twitter.com/gzz11tP6lz— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 19, 2017
Chris Kunitz, who has moved up and down the lineup because of the injuries elsewhere, detected confidence among his teammates this morning as the Penguins moved about their hotel in downtown Ottawa. And Sullivan expressed his confidence in Kunitz, as the veteran winger flanked Sidney Crosby during warm-ups while Scott Wilson skated beside Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Conor Sheary joined Nick Bonino's line, and Josh Archibald claimed the 12th forward spot, bumping seventh defenseman Mark Streit back into healthy scratch status.
"I think our group has done a great job of rebounding after bad efforts or things like that throughout the year," Kunitz said. "We have a group where we're really confident in our team and our ability to play the right way. Obviously when you don't, you get shown those mistakes on video, and then we go back out there, and we try to execute our gameplan, and that's going out there and trying to score some goals for our goalies."
Ottawa coach Guy Boucher emphasized on Friday morning that while Game 3 represented the Senators' best performance of the series, it hardly qualified as the only satisfactory one. His sentiment echoed statements he made even before Game 3, when he insisted on the third period of Game 2 struck him as particularly discouraging.
"I know we had a good start (in Game 3), but first game of the series, we did the exact same thing," Boucher said. "It just didn't go in. This time it went in.
"The only thing we've focused on was managing the puck better on our breakouts and our zone entries and going to the net more. That's it. We didn't change anything else. … We want to make sure that on their forecheck or on puck races, that we come up on top so we don't give the opponent momentum."
Playoff chances entering Friday's game. pic.twitter.com/7i8EydmKM8— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) May 19, 2017