The Pittsburgh Penguins Receive a Bucket of Ice Water to the Face in Game One

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The Pittsburgh Penguins Receive a Bucket of Ice Water to the Face in Game One

Nobody ever said it would be easy.

In fact, repeating as champions in any sport is even harder than winning it the first place. By that standard, the Pittsburgh Penguins entered the 2010 playoffs differently than ever before.

The Senators delivered their bucket of ice water loud and clear in front of the White Out crowd at the Igloo: We are going to be your worst nightmare for the next few weeks and if you don't take us seriously, you'll be going home early.

Splash.

For most of the regular season, the Penguins were simply trying to win enough games so they could get back to the playoffs and defend their crown. They never got too upset about a loss, or too excited about a victory. It didn't matter if they won the division or made it in as an 8th seed.

Just so long as they got in. Mission accomplished to that. But as Bill Guerin said, there is no "on" switch for a hockey team.

It was a dream start for the Penguins. Get some early chances, rattle the young goaltender a little bit and get on the power play. A great first four minutes was capped off by an Evgeni Malkin power play goal.

But then, it's like they sat back and thought they had done enough. The Senators kept coming, kept shooting, and forced mistakes from the Penguins defense. Nothing new there. All of a sudden, the Sens had a pair of power play goals and led 3-1. It was now comeback mode for the defending champions.

For every goal they would score and bring themselves a goal closer to tying Ottawa, the resilient Senators would get it right back to maintain a safe lead.

Despite a late rally by the Penguins, they dug themselves too deep a hole and the superb defensive work by Ottawa kept the Eastern Conference's second best offense down when they needed to the most.

They'll need a lot more effort to advance than what we saw on Wednesday night.

Player ratings are done on a scale from 0 (abysmal) to 10 (awe-inspiring performance).

 

Goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury: 3.5. Made a few decent saves but will be remembered for the multiple miscues. A horrific error led to the Senators third goal. Also needed to make a stop on Ruutu with time melting off the clock but couldn't make a routine save.

 

Defense

Mark Eaton: 4.5. Played over 16 minutes of ice time and contributed next to nothing.

Alex Goligoski: 6. With "Gogo," you have to take the good with the bad. The good? He scored a downright ridiculous goal with less than three minutes left when it looked like Brian Elliot had every inch of net covered. The bad? Let Chris Neil waltz in and score to give the Sens a lead they never gave up.

Sergei Gonchar: 5.5. Did a great job on the power play (two helpers) but needed to show more poise in the defensive zone.

Jordan Leopold: 5. Not the world's greatest or worst performance by the trade deadline acquisition. However, he's going to need to show a lot more if he wants to remain in Pittsburgh past July 1.

Kris Letang: 6. Was one of the only responsible defenders in this game and blocked five shots to lead all skaters.  

Brooks Orpik: 5. Didn't play big minutes, wasn't a physical force down low in the slightest way, and perhaps he was rushed back into action too soon after receiving stitches from a cut to the leg. 

 

Forwards

Craig Adams: 6.5. Only got 11 shifts on the night but made them count as he scored his first goal since last postseason. A fairly dangerous man and was one of the few that played with desperation.

Matt Cooke: 3.5. Was sleepwalking for most of the evening and contributed nothing worth remembering.

Sidney Crosby: 7. Had to deal with the Phillips-Volchenkov pairing every minute he was on the ice but still found a way to put up three points. Often left on his own while his line mates wandered around aimlessly.

Pascal Dupuis: 4.5. Picked up a helper on the Adams goal but just didn't look like his lively usual self for whatever reason.  

Ruslan Fedotenko: 3. As good as invisible.

Bill Guerin: 5.5. Did his job to get to the front of the net on the power play but needed to be there 5-on-5 for Sid and just wasn't.

Tyler Kennedy: 4. Daily checklist: Energy? Uh, not really. Pucks on net? Nope. Forechecking? Definitely not.   

Chris Kunitz: 5. Another player that did some productive things on the ice but also hurt the team. He was very active in his first game back after missing the previous four and laid some bone-crunching hits. Also took an undisciplined charging penalty on Jason Spezza that led to Erik Karlsson's power play goal.

Evgeni Malkin: 8.5. Scored twice and could have had more. Turned his game up in a big way and clearly enjoyed not having to see the Senators' shut down pairing as Andy Sutton or Chris Campoli couldn't keep up with him.

Alexei Ponikarovsky: 4. Hasn't played playoff hockey in years and looked like he never has. Turned the puck over more than once, also took a dumb slashing penalty that led to an Ottawa goal and found nearly no ways to hook up with a motivated Malkin.

Jordan Staal: 5. Not the force he needed to be in this game to shut down the Senators top line. The Selke candidate went minus-2 after a stellar season in that department.

Max Talbot: 6. Provided good energy on the fourth line and also drew a handful of penalties early in the game.

 

Notes

Game Two of the series will be played on Friday evening, also at Mellon Arena. 

The Penguins had not lost the opening game of a playoff series at home since April 23, 1998, when they fell 3-2 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens

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