Penguins-Senators: Oh Captain, My Captain
It only took Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby twelve seconds to break the deadlock on the scoreboard in the third period of Game 3. Crosby came with speed through the neutral zone, chipped the puck past an Ottawa defenseman, and beat Martin Gerber on the short side to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the game. Crosby's goal would eventually be the game winner.
It was announced just before the opening faceoff that Daniel Alfredsson would indeed be back in the lineup for the Ottawa Senators. Fueled by their captain's return and the boisterous home crowd, the Senators dominated the first ten minutes of this game. Marc-Andre Fleury made some big saves to keep the game even through the first twenty minutes, 0-0.
Just over a minute into the 2nd period, rookie Nick Foligno snuck a puck between the pillows of MAF to give the Senators the advantage. It didn't take the Penguins long to respond, as Maxime Talbot scored his first career playoff goal off of a nice dish from Marian Hossa. The crowd was still very much alive throughout the second period, but neither team could gain an advantage over the other, and goaltending once again came to center stage.
At the start of the third period, Sidney Crosby set the tone for the remainder of the game. He scored just twelve seconds into the period (a team playoff record for quickest goal to open a period in the playoffs), and the Pens would never look back. Just 78 seconds later, Tyler Kennedy hunted down a loose puck in the offensive zone, flung the puck hard toward the net, and found the tape of Jordan Staal to make it 3-1 Pens.
Chris Neil decided that punching Hal Gill in the side of the head in front of the Penguins net would be a good way to get his team going. He was wrong. Instead Neil headed to the penalty box, and any hopes that the Sens might respond quickly were soon relegated to wishful thinking.
The Pens got lucky towards the end of the third, when Jordan Staal lifted the stick of Dany Heatley, right into his own face, cutting himself on the nose. Heatley got a 4 minute double minor for high sticking, and the Pens got a 5-on-3 power play out of the deal. I'm sure this call will be at the center of every Ottawa based argument that the refs favored the Penguins the entire game, but the simple fact is, the Penguins were the more disciplined team, played under control, and didn't get caught out of position. Besides, at the time this penalty was called, with the way Fleury was playing, this game was all but over.
Marian Hossa would score on the ensuing power play and put the nail in the coffin, making it 4-1 Pens. Hossa had a breakout game, scoring a goal and adding two assists for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury put on another grand display of goaltending, stopping 33 of 34 shots against a desperate Ottawa hockey club.
The series will resume with Game 4 at ScotiaJoke Place on Wednesday night. The Senators will be playing with nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Penguins will need to keep their composure, keep playing smart hockey, and will need another big performance from Marc-Andre Fleury if they want to complete the sweep.
Since the Ottawa organizations' brilliant decision to put a huge picture of the handshake between the Pens and Sens after Game 5 of last season's series outside the visiting team's locker room at ScotiaJoke Place (to subtly remind the Penguins that "we beat you last year") didn't quite work out how they planned, maybe someone can put a dead baby penguin inside the showers before game four. Perhaps that will really throw off the psyche of their opponents. It's unfortunate to say about a team that looked like they would most definitely be a favorite to make it back to the Finals this season, but Constable Lyndon Slewidge (the national anthem singer) is about the best thing that the Senators have going for them right now.
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