Senators head home to regroup
The Ottawa Senators can't hide from the reality of their seemingly dire situation. They trail the Penguins, 2-0, in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals, and a comeback probably will require equal parts skill and good fortune.
But the Senators can take some solace in three facts of their playoff life that developed during their 4-3 loss to the Penguins on Friday at Consol Energy Center.
• They're going home for Games 3 and 4 at Scotiabank Place, where they were 17-6-3 this season, including two postseason victories against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round.
• They didn't fold in the midst of Sidney Crosby's hat trick, scoring after his first and third goals to keep the game competitive and the outcome in question. Forty seconds after rink workers picked the hats off the ice, the Senators picked themselves up on a goal by Colin Greening to slice the lead to 3-2.
• Perhaps most important, Senators coach Paul MacLean kept his star goaltender Craig Anderson fresh — mentally and physically — by pulling him in the second period in favor of playoff novice Robin Lehner after Crosby's third goal. MacLean is counting on a long series, and he'll need Anderson to make that happen.
“You get a little mental break,” Anderson said about getting pulled. “You get to sit out and watch the team and see it from a different perspective. It's one of those things where you have to keep learning, you have to keep getting better. Obviously, we all can be better.”
“The tone of the game changed, and we started to play a lot better.”
Lehner stepped up in a desperate situation, stopping 20 of 21 shots after replacing Anderson with 18:45 left in the second period.
When asked about changing goalies, MacLean said it was made for the team's sake.
“It had nothing to do with the way (Anderson) had played,” he said. “I was just trying to get the team to recognize the fact that we were in the game and we needed to play.”
Lehner's finest moment came with six minutes left in the third period and the Penguins clinging to a 4-3 lead. Lehner raced out of the net to the top of the faceoff circle to redirect the puck as Jarome Iginla appeared to have a breakaway opportunity.
Coming into the series, Anderson, who turns 32 next week, appeared to be the Senators' best chance of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals. Among goaltenders who played a significant number of games, Anderson led the NHL in goals-against average (1.69) in the regular season.
Anderson fell victim to Crosby's brilliance only 3:16 into the game, failing to make the save after the Penguins' star center skated through and around four Senators, the last of whom was reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, who was on the ice for the first two of Crosby's goals in the first period.
On the second, Anderson had Crosby on his right and Pascal Dupuis on his left. Crosby scored merely by keeping the puck and shooting.