OTTAWA – If the Ottawa Senators want to stay in their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, they’ll have to find an answer for Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins captain scored the game-winner in the second period and added an assist as Pittsburgh beat Ottawa 4-2 on Sunday night to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference quarter-final.
Pittsburgh also got goals from Alexei Ponikarovsky, Evgeni Malkin and Bill Guerin. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 20 shots.
“What it came down to was execution,” said Crosby, who now has seven points in three games. “(Fleury) made some big saves and fortunately for us we capitalized on some chances. That’s going to be the difference in these games here.”
Mike Fisher and Matt Cullen each scored on the power play for the Senators, while Brian Elliott faced 24 shots.
“The reality is it’s a race to four (wins),” said Senators centre Jason Spezza. “They’ve still got to beat us two more times.”
With Pittsburgh leading 2-1 late in the second, Crosby fought off Ottawa defenceman Andy Sutton and lifted a shot over a sprawled out Elliott for his second of the playoffs.
“I just had some space and tried to bring it across to see what I had,” Crosby said. “I had a little room, the goalie went down and had some space to put it in.”
Despite a territorial advantage for big chunks of the game, the Senators were unable to capitalize on their chances, while the Penguins buried theirs.
“We’re still in it,” said Fisher. “We’ve got another game at home here to even the series and we’ve got to focus on that game and not think beyond. We know what we’ve got to do and enjoy the challenge (of Game 4 on) Tuesday.”
The towel waving sold-out crowd at Scotiabank Place was quickly silenced as the Penguins scored on their first shot when Ponikarovsky beat Elliot at 1:17 of the opening period.
“That’s not the way we want to start any game,” said Elliott. “I’ve got to have those right off the bat.”
The Senators thought they had tied it with 40 seconds left in the period, but it was ruled Peter Regin’s goal was kicked in.
Ottawa started the second on the power play and took advantage as Fisher, with his first of the series, tied the game on a great feed by Regin.
The Senators took it to the Penguins from there but were unable to beat Fleury. Pittsburgh restored its lead when neither Sutton nor Erik Karlsson could clear the puck from Maxime Talbot, who managed to find Malkin all alone in front.
“They were opportunistic tonight,” said Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson. “That’s why they won the game and we’ve just got to find a way to get a (few) more chances and get that lead and force them to attack a little more.”
Alfredsson left the game at the 13-minute mark of the second after taking a big hit from Crosby, but the Senators captain returned to the game with less than three minutes remaining in the second.
After Crosby made it 3-1, Guerin scored early in the third, beating Elliot on a breakaway.
Cullen’s power-play goal with seven minutes to go brought it to 4-2, but the Senators would get no closer.
Notes: The Senators were without D Filip Kuba (lower body, season), LW Milan Michalek (knee, season), RW Alex Kovalev (knee, season). RW Shean Donovan and D Brian Lee were healthy scratches. The Penguins were without D Jordan Leopold (head, day-to-day), G Brent Johnson (flu, day-to-day). … D Jay McKee replaced Leopold in the lineup. D Ben Lovejoy, LW Ruslan Fedotenko, RW Eric Godard were healthy scratches.