Penguins' breakdown on Alfredsson goal changes series
OTTAWA — Chris Kunitz would just as soon see The Breakdown become a footnote in the story of the 2013 Penguins.
On Monday, though, neither Kunitz nor Penguins coach Dan Bylsma could avoid a gripping narrative:
That last-minute goal by Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, which tied Game 3 on Sunday night, transformed a second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Senators into a choose-your-own-ending read.
The Penguins led that game, 1-0, and needed only to prevent a shorthanded goal to claim a commanding, 3-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
Instead, Alfredsson's tying goal and a double-overtime winner by winger Colin Greening has the Senators in position to pull even, 2-2, with a win in Game 4 at Scotiabank Place on Wednesday.
The Breakdown changed everything.
“We went out with a possession mentality, got a little passive and didn't possess the puck,” Kunitz said Monday, a day away from practice for both clubs.
“We started backing off and let them come at us with speed.”
Speed, as the New York Islanders showed in Round 1, is kryptonite to this Penguins squad led by Superman-like centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
However, on the power play is where the Penguins would likely have most wanted to be in Game 3 while trying to finish off the Senators.
Even at 0 for 4 to that point in Game 3, the Penguins were still clicking at a 28.6-percent rate overall in the playoffs. Also, they seemed to be due, having failed to score a power-play goal in only two previous games this postseason, and never when having at least three man-advantage chances.
A slashing penalty by Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson with 1:27 remaining in regulation had positioned the Penguins on the brink of the 3-0 series lead only three NHL clubs have ever lost.
A breakdown of The Breakdown that Bylsma conceded changed the complexion of this series:
• The Penguins failed for a second time on the power play at a dump-and-retrieve attempt, and the Senators quickly moved the puck out of their defensive zone.
• Instructions from the Penguins bench called for a line change after the dump, but only Crosby was able to get off. He was replaced by center Brandon Sutter. Winger Pascal Dupuis was to replace Malkin, but the Senators' swift transition from defense to offense forced Malkin to stay on the ice in a defensive role.
• In the neutral zone, Alfredsson drop-passed to Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar. Alfredsson curled after the pass and skated to Ottawa's offensive zone. Kunitz let him go, confident Alfredsson would be picked up by either Malkin (high) or defenseman Kris Letang (low) in the defensive zone.
• Kunitz trailed Alfredsson through the neutral zone. Upon crossing the blue line, Kunitz stayed high in the defensive zone to pick up the Senators' player who jumped onto the ice when goalie Craig Anderson headed to the bench.
• Gonchar carried into Ottawa's offensive zone. He successfully penetrated it cleanly because of weak gap control by Penguins defenseman Paul Martin and Sutter, the latter a first line of defense guarding the middle of the ice at the blue line.
• After gaining the blue line in Ottawa's offensive zone, Gonchar passed left to Senators winger Milan Michalek. Malkin and Letang became transfixed on the puck. Neither Malkin nor Letang marked Alfredsson, who skated untouched along a backdoor-line into the slot.
• Michalek chipped a pass between Malkin and Letang. Alfredsson was open, received it and deflected a puck behind Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun.
Letang and Malkin headed to the bench flashing signs of frustration. Crosby tried to boost Malkin by stick-tapping his shin guard. Veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik motioned with his hand for Letang to calm down.
“We definitely kind of gave it away there,” Orpik said Monday before echoing Kunitz's thoughts that players need to learn from the many mistakes in that situation.
Bylsma said that only once during the season and playoffs had the Penguins been in a similar spot: protecting a one-goal lead while on a power play in the last minute.
“We had a brief plan on the bench before going out,” Bylsma said of the Game 3 spot. “Unfortunately, we had two situations where we dumped the puck in and weren't able to put much pressure and allowed them to rush up the ice.
“We didn't accomplish the goal of holding onto the puck and possessing the puck.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.