Penguins take control of series in Ottawa
OTTAWA — At this point, an actual army of Senators couldn't stop Sidney Crosby, who forced a white-toweled surrender from the Sens Army inside Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night.
Crosby's four points essentially delivered a dagger to the Ottawa Senators in Game 4 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series — a best-of-seven affair the Penguins lead, 3-1, after a 7-4 victory.
"This is about as consistent as I've ever seen him," said defenseman Brooks Orpik, Crosby's teammate of the last five seasons. "I don't really have any plans for other teams, nor would I give them one.
"It's just one of those things where we're happy to be on his side."
With two goals and two assists, Crosby has raced to 11 points in the playoffs. He has played a part in all but six goals scored by the Penguins, including eight of 13 since a Game 1 home loss last Wednesday night.
Crosby, as expected, downplayed his brilliance.
"I'm getting chances, and they're going in," he said. "That's the way it works."
Center Evgeni Malkin, tied with Crosby for the series lead in goals after notching his third power-play tally in Game 4, said Penguins majority co-owner Mario Lemieux's franchise mark of 17 series points against Washington in 1992 is safe.
However, Malkin suggested that is only because the Penguins cans wrap up this Eastern Conference quarterfinal Thursday night at Mellon Arena.
"It'll be a little bit harder — six points in one game," Malkin said. "I don't think Sidney is thinking about the record. He just wants to try and help us win the next game."
To get that win — No. 4 in a playoff series, which winger Alexei Ponikarovsky reminded "is the hardest" — the Penguins will need to fend off a feisty Senators group that totaled 15 penalties for 54 minutes, including seven fouls (three 10-minute misconducts) in the final 1:27 of regulation.
"I guess you can look at it as being frustrated, but at the same time, you can look at it as a pretty good sign of our character," Senators defenseman Chris Phillips said. "We kept battling back and trying to change the game. We did that, but we continued to make mistakes that they capitalized on."
Despite winning three straight games by a combined 13-7 score, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Orpik agreed the seemingly coasting club could tighten their overall game.
There is room for penalty-kill improvement after the Senators notched their fifth and sixth power-play goals, including one in the third period from center Jason Spezza.
Another concern is the occasional lapses in defensive-zone coverage, which in Game 4 led to several quality scoring chances against goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (26 saves) after Penguins claimed a 4-0 lead on goals from Malkin, Crosby and winger Matt Cooke, his first.
Ottawa quickly came within a 4-2 score on goals by wingers Chris Neil and Daniel Alfredsson about five minutes after Crosby's second goal of Game 4 at 6:12 of the second period.
Forward Max Talbot (shorthanded), winger Chris Kunitz and center Jordan Staal (power play) each added their first series goals for the Penguins, who also surrendered a power-play marker to Ottawa center Matt Cullen.
The Penguins chased Senators goalie Brian Elliott early in the second period. Crosby contributed on five of eight goals he allowed in two home losses.
"After every game, you always ask us the same question because he does something special every game," Talbot said of Crosby. "That's the big reason we have success, because he's our leader out there, and he leads us the right way."
INSIDE GAME 4
Best hit: Senators defenseman Andy Sutton drew cheers of "Who's an expert?" for blasting Max Talbot in front of the Penguins' bench in the first period, but his clean hit of Tyler Kennedy sent the Penguins winger off the ice favoring his right leg early in the second.
Worst move: With Jordan Staal already in the penalty box and the Penguins gaining a 5-2 edge on a short-handed goal by Max Talbot, defenseman Jay McKee was called for hooking at 13:07 of the second period. Twelve seconds later, Matt Cullen scored to cut it to 5-3 and keep the Senators' hopes alive.
Turning point: Sidney Crosby sanwiched two goals — his third and fourth of the playoffs — around a Matt Cooke tally in a span of 2:25 to help turn a 1-0 lead into a four-goal advantage by 6:12 of the second period. That caused the Senators to pull goalie Brian Elliott for backup Pascal Leclaire.
Key save: Marc-Andre Fleury made a strong stop of a Daniel Alfredsson backhand early in the second period that led to a scoring rush. Sergei Gonchar passed it to Chris Kunitz, who was dragged down by a defenseman, but Sidney Crosby followed the play and beat Elliott for a 4-0 lead.
— By Kevin Gorman
Game 4 Rewind
For in-game coverage of the defending champion Penguins' race to defend their Stanley Cup title, click to Kevin Gorman's blog, Sitting Ringside.
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