Welcome to Mr Roberts' Neighborhood: Pittsburgh Penguins Dominate in Game 1
41 year old Gary Roberts only needed 68 seconds to continue his dominance of the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs. Georges Laraque centered the puck, and after a few bounces through the crease, it ended up on the blade of Gary Roberts. Roberts spun to his backhand and shuffled the puck toward the net, beating Martin Gerber and giving the Pens the early advantage.
The Penguins struck again 11 minutes later as Petr Sykora took a perfect pass from Evgeni Malkin on a 2-on-1 chance and beat Martin Gerber. It looked as though we were going to be in for a high scoring affair, but Gerber settled down, and the two teams played to a tight checking stalemate through the 2nd period.
The Penguins' penalty killers killed two separate 5-on-3 opportunities and a total of 7 penalties in the game. Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi led the Penguins' defensive core on the PK, and played very physical in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Sens kept coming, but Fleury was turning away everything they threw at him. Still, the two goal lead created an uneasy feeling. That feeling vanished at 13:58 of the 3rd period when Evgeni Malkin kicked a bouncing puck from his skate to his stick and put the insurance marker on the game.
Four minutes later, Gary Roberts decided it was time for a curtain call. The Penguins' fourth line outplayed any and all line combinations that Bryan Murray tried to counter with. With the game winding down, the Penguins got a late powerplay. Marian Hossa cycled the puck to Malkin in the corner, and Malkin snapped a quick pass to the front of the net... right into Mr. Roberts' Neighborhood. Gary Roberts has made a living scoring dirty goals in front of the net, especially in the playoffs, and tonight was no different as he poked his second goal of the game past Gerber.
What happened next is why Gary Roberts epitomizes a playoff hockey player. Roberts and the Sens' Bass had been going at each other all game long. Roberts sent Bass shoulder first into the low boards, and got exactly the response that he expected. The Sens all conjoined around Gary Roberts and the face-washing and trash talking flew. Roberts literally had to be physically removed from the ice by two officials. It took a solid two minutes for the officials to force the fiery 41-year old down the ramp and off the ice. Roberts just wouldn't quit. Watch out for him in Game 2.
An all around great game for the Penguins tonight. They turned the tables on the team that physically dominated them at this time last playoff season, and every player on the roster played a role in this game. Ryan Whitney even dropped the gloves with Wade Redden (a fight in which Whitney clearly won) in response to Redden taking a whack at Sidney Crosby.
Marc-Andre Fleury silenced the critics who called him "too inconsistent to win a playoff series and too young to do anything about it" after last season's first round. Fleury stopped all 26 shots he faced tonight, and posted the first postseason shutout of his career.
One game does not a series make, however, if Game 1 is any indication of how this series will go, things are looking very promising for this tight-knit group of flightless birds led by their fiery assistant captain, who is old enough to be some of the players' father. Bryan Murray will most likely say the officiating was one-sided, Roberts was trying to hurt someone at the end of the game, and whatever other outlandish thoughts that come to his mind, but the fact is, Bryan Murray, you, sir, were outplayed tonight. See you on Friday.
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