OTTAWA – After two games of their first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Ottawa Senators find themselves trying to solve the same problem they started with ? stopping Sidney Crosby.
The Senators felt pretty good after returning home with 1-1 series split, but know they’ll need to do a better job with the Penguins captain. Crosby has been in on five of his team’s six goals so far, registering one goal and four assists in the series.
“We’ve got to try and limit his time and space,” Senators forward Mike Fisher said after practice Saturday. “He hasn’t gotten a ton of scoring chances, but he’s good at creating things and opening up space for his linemates. We just need to be conscious when he’s on the ice.”
Crosby made an unbelievable play to set up Kris Letang’s late winner on Friday night, shaking off Jason Spezza with a couple spin moves behind the net. He also scored and dove to make a goal-line save with nine minutes remaining in the third period.
Heading into Game 3 at Scotiabank Place on Sunday night (CBC, 6:30 p.m. ET), the Sens are hoping to get the right matchup against Crosby.
“It’s a lot easier having last change,” said defenceman Chris Phillips. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job (containing Crosby). We’ve got to do our best to slow him down, but he’s a great player and he’s going to create his chances. It’s about not making them point blank and getting rid of rebounds.”
Ottawa coach Cory Clouston thought his team played fairly well during Friday’s 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh. One area he felt was lacking a little was the emotional level.
“The big difference was they came out with more (intensity) and we didn’t respond the way we needed to in little areas,” said Clouston. “We know there’s going to be some ups and downs and it’s how you respond that’s the most important thing.”
While Andy Sutton’s crushing hit on Pittsburgh’s Jordan Leopold was the talk of Game 2, the Penguins were more physical overall ? outhitting Ottawa 52-31.
Clouston is calling on his team to respond in that area.
“We need more guys to be physical,” he said. “They’re playing physical, they’re finishing their checks on us, we have to do the same and not just Andy we need everybody to finish their checks.
“We don’t want to turn away at any time. We need to be more physical and that’s not just finishing checks.”
The Senators will also be looking for stronger performances from top-tier players Daniel Alfredsson and Spezza. Neither player has scored in the series.
While Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined for eight points and 14 shots on goal, Spezza and Alfredsson have been held to four points and just five shots.
“We had some good chances (Friday), both me and Jason, but the shots just weren’t going exactly where we wanted,” said Alfredsson. “We need to get to the net a little more and get to those rebounds. ? that’s so important in the playoffs.”
Overall, the Senators feel they have matched up well against the Penguins and look forward to hosting their first playoff game in nearly two years. The Senators have a 12-7 record in Game 3s.
“We take a lot of positive from some of the ways we played and learn from some of the other things we need to get better at,” said Fisher. “We just need to get excited for tomorrow.”