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Sens have no answer for Pens' gritty guys

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

OTTAWA — Ottawa tried everything in its arsenal, from checking to chipping to chirping, to keep Penguins superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from continuing their scoring reign in this series.

But the Senators brought a sword to a gunfight.

And there are a lot more Penguins firing than Crosby and Malkin, who have combined for 16 points in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

"They're the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they didn't do that just riding on one or two guys," Senators defenseman Chris Phillips said. "They've got some depth there. That's playoff hockey: those guys shine."

Consider winger Chris Kunitz, who has scored a goal and recorded five points in addition to hitting every Senator in sight in this series.

Think about forward Max Talbot, with a shorthanded goal in the Penguins' 7-4 Game 4 victory and a couple of assists on Malkin markers in the series.

Winger Pascal Dupuis, who failed to produce a point last postseason, has won countless races for loose pucks and played with purpose.

Even Craig Adams had an assist and a key blocked shot on a penalty kill that prevented the Senators from closing on a two-goal gap in the third period.

The Senators had no answer for Crosby or Malkin, let alone the gritty play of their fellow forwards Tuesday night in Game 4 at Scotiabank Place. As a result, the Penguins have a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven series, and Ottawa faces elimination in Game 5 Thursday at Mellon Arena.

"They have a lot of depth," said backup goalie Pascal Leclaire, who replaced Brian Elliott at 6:12 of the second period. "They were rolling their four lines and they're all playing well right now. We've got to make sure we're doing the same thing. It just seemed like whenever we were trying to come back, they were able to get a goal and get some momentum back from us."

After splitting the first two games of the series to gain home-ice advantage, the Senators showed they were helpless once the Penguins got going.

Ottawa went a stretch of 12:01 without so much as taking a shot on net while the Penguins were firing off a dozen at Elliott, who was pulled after giving up a 4-0 lead. He allowed eight goals on 43 shots in Games 3 and 4.

By the time Senators Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza rediscovered their scoring touch, it was too late. Both scored their first goal of the playoffs, but only after Ottawa had fallen into a 4-0 hole. Alfredsson had only two shots on net entering Game 4, and finally tallied for the first time at 10:59 of the second period. Spezza scored his first to cut it to 6-4 at 7:37 of the third.

But the play of Adams, Matt Cooke, Dupuis, Kunitz and Talbot made a decided difference. Dupuis had a two-on-one breakaway with Malkin and drew a hooking call on penalty-killing defenseman Anton Volchenkov that led to Malkin's power-play goal. Talbot intercepted a clearing attempt by Elliott and fed Cooke in the slot for his first goal of the playoffs, then scored the momentum-changing short-hander for a 5-2 lead at 12:38 of the second.

"It's important," Crosby said. "Everyone's got to contribute, especially in a shootout like (last) night. That goal from Max was big. We're going to need to see that if we're going to be successful."

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