OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators have every intention of making this a series.
The Senators trail the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in their Eastern Conference semifinal heading into Game 4 Wednesday at Scotiabank Place. After a big win in Game 3—another resilient performance in a season full of them—the Senators are confident they can tie the series.
“The next game is the biggest game of the year, that’s the way it is,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. “No matter what happens you treat it (as the biggest game) and when that’s done you do the same for the next one.”
The Senators’ confidence in themselves and their ability to rebound has been the benchmark of their entire season. Ottawa’s 2-1 double-overtime win Sunday night was just another example.
Alfredsson tied the game at 1-1 with 29 seconds remaining in regulation and Colin Greening went on to score the winner at the seven-minute mark of the second overtime period.
The Senators are well aware that the Penguins will want to take their game to a new level and take control of this series. But they believe that if they play as well or better than they did Sunday, they will have a good chance of winning.
“We can’t stray too far from our game plan,” said Ottawa defenceman Marc Methot. “Last game in particular we were so strong defensively and that’s a huge key. We know we’re going to get our opportunities offensively in their own zone.”
Coincidentally, the Penguins believe the exact same thing.
“I think every game the more the series goes on the more important each one gets,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. “You can see the desperation they have. They want to make sure it’s 2-2 going back to Pittsburgh and obviously we know the scenario is to come here and get one of two on the road and go back home with a chance to finish off the series would be great.
“I don’t think we have to change anything to do that. Our desperation’s been there, our compete level has been there and we believe that if we play the same way as last game and limit a few mistakes that we have a good chance of getting the win.””
Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke acknowledges that the Senators have likely gained confidence from their win. But it’s still just one win.
“The playoffs are a race to four wins through seven games,” Cooke said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew the Sens weren’t just going to roll over and give us all four games. Whether we lose 2-1 or 7-1, it’s one loss and that’s the way we have to view it.”
While the Senators bring a resiliency into this series, the Penguins counter with experience. Much like the Senators, the Penguins have confidence in themselves as a group and see no reason to panic or change their game plan.
“You have to believe in your game,” Crosby said. “I think teams who get here believe in their game at this point. Sometimes in the playoffs you lose a tight game and you trust that if you play the same way in the next one you have a chance to win.”
While the Senators are confident after their overtime victory, veteran defenceman Chris Phillips believes much of the Senators success has come from their ability to stay emotionally grounded.
“You’d be absolutely beat if after every game that’s all you did was think about the last game or worry about the result of the next game or riding highs or being down if you lose the previous one,” Phillips said. “It’s all about the process and playing and on the days off not even thinking about hockey and removing yourself from it.
“Physically as much as mentally you have to be rested and get ready for the next game. As far as this group is, it’s not about getting caught up in the results it’s going and playing the game the way we can and we’ll deal with the results at the end.”
Notes: Ottawa D Eric Gryba is expected to skate Wednesday morning, but not expected to play in Game 4. … Pittsburgh LW Jussi Jokinen could be back in the lineup Wednesday. Jokinen said in his opinion he is ready to play.