Daniel Alfredsson scored twice during a second dominating Ottawa second period in as many days. The Senators made this lead stand, taking Pittsburgh’s stars and its crowd out of the game for a 4-2 victory Sunday in Game 3 of their first-round series.
The Senators seized back home-ice advantage by controlling Pittsburgh’s stars and getting two key goals from one of their own in Alfredsson.
Ottawa, rebounding from a 4-3 loss at home barely 24 hours before in which it twice squandered third-period leads, takes a 2-1 lead into Game 4 on Tuesday night. Game 5 follows in Ottawa on Thursday.
The Senators have been in control for all but 1½ periods of the series, winning 6-3 in Game 1. Only this time – unlike Saturday, when the Penguins came back with three goals in the third period – they have the victory and the series lead to prove it.
The Senators lost forward Patrick Eaves, taken off the ice on a stretcher after being levelled by an unpenalized Colby Armstrong hit with Ottawa up 3-1 midway through the second period. Eaves appeared to be knocked unconscious, but did not need to go to the hospital.
The game became visibly more physical after that, with several fights. Penguins rookie Evgeni Malkin even dropped the gloves to fight defenceman Chris Phillips late in the game.
What the Penguins didn’t throw at the Senators was enough scoring chances. They were outshot 25-19 in the game and have been outshot 99-66 in the series. Sidney Crosby, the NHL scoring leader, had five shots, but didn’t score until Ottawa had long since seized control, and Malkin didn’t score on four shots.
Initially, the Penguins carried the momentum from their comeback Saturday into this game, getting a goal from longtime Senators agitator Gary Roberts with only 52 seconds gone. The goal made an already loud crowd for the Penguins’ first home playoff game since May 19, 2001 louder still, and the Senators looked not very confident.
But the Senators got the tying goal late in the period when Dean McAmmond put in a rebound of Eaves’ shot from the slot that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped but couldn’t control.
An instant after the puck crossed the goal line, an upended Tom Preissing tumbled into the net past Fleury, but the goal was allowed to stand.
That goal clearly energized the Senators and may have allowed them to control the second period much like they did in outshooting Pittsburgh 19-5 in Game 2.
The Senators, playing in a 10th consecutive NHL postseason but yet to reach the Stanley Cup finals, got the go-ahead goal early in the second. Joseph Corvo’s shot from the left point deflected off Mike Fisher, allowing Mike Comrie to sweep the puck into the unattended side of the net with Fleury occupied on the other side.
Alfredsson’s first goal came on a power play about five minutes later on a hard shot from the left wing circle to Fleury’s short side. Alfredsson’s third goal of the series came late in the period, just as a Penguins power play was ending, on a one-timer off McAmmond’s pass to the left circle.
And, this time, the Senators didn’t allow a third-period comeback, though Crosby scored another of his can-you-top-this goal with about five minutes remaining. Collecting Malkin’s pass while sliding on his left side near the left circle, Crosby managed to steer the puck past Ray Emery for his third goal in as many games.
Notes: Malkin, the rookie of the year favourite, has no goals in the series. He ended with 85 points during the season, but has only four goals in his last 26 games. Malkin got his first shot on goal in the series midway through the first period. . . . Senators D Christoph Schubert (neck) returned after missing most of Game 2. . . . Roberts played in three winning playoff series against Ottawa while with Toronto from 2001-04.