Somehow the Penguins headed home Saturday with a 4-3 win and a series split despite being outshot 74-47 by the Ottawa Senators in the first two games of their Eastern Conference quarter-final set.
“We were real fortunate to get out of today – no doubt about it,” Penguins winger Gary Roberts said before jumping on a plane with the rest of his teammates.
“But we came out in the third period and showed some character. I thought our young guys really competed hard in the third period and showed the reason why this team had 105 points in the regular season. These guys have competed and bounced back all year.”
Game 3 goes Sunday in Pittsburgh and the Senators have to be concerned that suddenly the upstart Penguins believe they’ve got a shot.
“They’ve won one game and didn’t touch the puck for two periods,” Ottawa head coach Bryan Murray snapped back when asked about Pittsburgh’s new-found confidence.
It was the veteran Roberts who keyed an improbable third-period comeback with a goal and an assist and the physical play to go with it.
“He’s been doing that a long time,” Crosby said of the 40-year-old Roberts, a key trade deadline acquisition. “You can’t help but follow when someone is playing like that. He was banging bodies, putting the puck in the net, he was doing everything in his power really to make a big difference in that game – and he did.
“When you see anybody lead by example, especially a veteran like that, I don’t think you can help but follow that and I think we all followed that lead.”
With Roberts leading the way, a re-energized Penguins team – which had been outshot 25-10 through 40 minutes – erased two one-goal leads by the Senators before Crosby scored the winner at 11:44.
“They make it tough on him but good players always find a way to hurt other teams and this is what he did,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said of his 19-year-old superstar.
Crosby quieted a Scotiabank Place crowd of 20,133 that had booed him all game long when he deftly re-directed a Mark Recchi feed at the side of the net, his second goal in as many playoff games.
“I expect that on the road now,” Crosby said of the booing directed at him. “I’ve seen it a lot. But to be honest I really don’t hear it out there. There’s so much else on my mind. There’s not a lot that booing is really going to change what I think or what I do. You just get so caught up in the game, it’s hard to really hear that stuff.”
Jordan Staal, Gary Roberts and Ryan Whitney also scored for the Penguins, who had no business being in it through 40 minutes, taking a number of stupid penalties and handing the Senators power play after power play.
“The undiscplined play in the second period (five penalties) was the ideal recipe to lose a game,” said Therrien, who between periods told his team to calm down.
Chris Kelly, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza scored for Ottawa, which failed yet again to go up 2-0 in a playoff series, falling to 0-7 after winning the opening game of a series.
The Senators went only 1-for-9 on the power play while the Penguins were 2-for-3 with the man advantage.
Marc-Andre Fleury was solid in goal for Pittsburgh, displaying none of the Game 1 jitters, and saving the game with 13 seconds left when he robbed Mike Fisher right on the door step.
“Marc-Andre was the difference in the game today,” said Therrien. “He made key saves and gave us a chance to win. He was really solid for us.”
Ottawa goalie Ray Emery, meanwhile, was average at best in stopping 17 of 21 shots.
Therrien also deserves credit for shuffling his lines after two periods and re-uniting Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“We’re not afraid to makes changes,” said Therrien. “We were not pleased after the second with how we were playing. So we shook things up, and it worked.”
Whitney quieted a boisterous crowd 3:01 into the game, his power-play blast deflecting off Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips and past Emery.
The Senators lost fourth-line winger Christoph Schubert to a neck strain midway through the period when he collided at centre ice with Penguins centre Maxime Talbot and fell awkwardly to the ice.
The Penguins got a scare of their own when Malkin was sent sprawling to the ice after a borderline hit from Sens winger Peter Schaefer.
The Pittsburgh bench was up in arms again late in the first period when Crosby got punched in the face by Phillips while trying to get around him and there was no call.
The Senators came storming out of the gates in the second period, outshooting the Penguins 8-0, the eighth shot a goal by Spezza at 8:28 after the star centre flipped a rebound over Fleury after a dangerous rush by Alfredsson.
The game got nasty again late in the middle period when Colby Armstrong, after being stopped in-alone, crashed violently into Emery, igniting a melee that also involved Crosby.
Armstrong’s brain cramp cost the Penguins dearly, with the Senators connecting on the ensuing power play at 16:44 on one of the prettiest goals you’ll see, a tic-tac-toe play finished off by Alfredsson, the captain showing some emotion after the goal.
Obviously the Penguins didn’t learn their lesson but on the very next shift Jarkko Ruutu took a bone-headed roughing penalty after going after Mike Comrie.
The unravelling Penguins skated off the ice, tails between their legs, having been outshot 19-5 by a Senators team once again dominating in every aspect of play.
But the third period was a different story.
A slashing penalty to Mike Fisher early put Pittsburgh on the power play and Roberts connected on a rebound to tie the game 2-2 at 2:04, the Penguins bench re-energized by the goal.
Kelly had the crowd back on its feet when he put Ottawa back up to stay at 6:18, flying into the zone and rifling a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Fleury stick-side.
But Staal, alone in the slot, got that back at 9:34, one-timing a pass in front from Michel Ouellet to tie the game 3-3, setting up Crosby’s heroics a few shifts later.
Notes: Tough guy Georges Laraque sat out Game 2 after playing sparingly in Game 1 for Pittsburgh. Fellow forwards Chris Thorburn and Nils Ekman were also healthy scratches as well as defencemen Joel Kwiatkowski and Alain Nasreddine … Forwards Brian McGrattan and Oleg Saprykin and defenceman Lawrence Nycholat were scratches once again for Ottawa.