Behind Crosby's hat trick, Penguins sneak past Senators
The Penguins went backward to move forward Friday.
That movement started with four players who were part of the lineup the last time the Penguins swept the first two games in Pittsburgh of a Stanley Cup playoff series.
Captain Sidney Crosby was joined by alternates Brooks Orpik and Chris Kunitz, and leader-without-a-letter Pascal Dupuis, for the opening faceoff in Game 2 of a second-round series against the Ottawa Senators at Consol Energy Center.
Sixty hockey-minutes later, the Penguins had a 4-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
“You start Sidney in the game for a reason,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “You look for those guys … to set the example for the way we want to play, the way we want to execute.”
Game 3 is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place.
The Senators are, as veteran defenseman Chris Phillips feared was possible, “not in a situation you want to be in.”
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang called the victory “huge.”
If history matters, he perhaps was underselling the win.
During the Crosby era, the Penguins never have lost a playoff series in which they've won the first two games in Pittsburgh.
This series marks the first time that has happened at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins were 5-9 in playoff games at Consol, but they are 4-1 in these playoffs.
That is just like the good old days, actually.
The Penguins went 18-3 at Mellon Arena during the 2008 and '09 postseasons, when they lost, then won, in the Cup Final.
In seven of those eight series, they swept those first two games in Pittsburgh.
“We wanted to win this,” right winger Tyler Kennedy said.
Bylsma said the message Thursday was that the Penguins could use Game 2 to play their best game of this postseason.
They finished with advantages in shots (42-22), power plays (6-2), blocks (20-8) and takeaways (9-3).
Their best shift, Bylsma said, came from the third line with about three minutes remaining and holding a one-goal lead.
The best player was Crosby, who turned his first hat trick since experiencing concussion symptoms — a span of 2 1⁄2 years.
His third goal, early in the second period, chased Ottawa starting goalie Craig Anderson. That move, Senators coach Paul MacLean said, was “more for the team” — and Ottawa responded with two goals that made for a compelling final 17 minutes to Game 2.
However, as was the case during three regular-season meetings — all losses — the Senators could merely get close to the Penguins.
“We need to start the way we finished,” MacLean said, referring to the Senators attempting 18 shots — only six were not blocked or missed — over the final 20 minutes.
The Penguins, however, may have finished this series by holding off the charge.
In their past three postseasons, each ending with losses to lower-seeded clubs, the Penguins had failed to hold home-ice advantage before playing a game in the opposing city.
That trend is history.
Quickly after Game 2, Crosby wanted what went down on this Friday night in Pittsburgh to be part of history, too.
“I don't think we need to get caught up in the fact that we won two here,” Crosby said. “They're going to be pretty desperate so we better be ready going into Ottawa.”