“The positive thing is: the first game is under their belt,” Penguins
coach Michel Therrien said after the Penguins were taught a lesson by the Senators in a 6-3 loss that left Pittsburgh trailing the best-of-seven Eastern Conference opening-round series 1-0.
“A lot of those guys, this was their first game in the NHL playoffs and I didn’t feel our team was tight, but I guess they were.”
Although Crosby, the 19-year-old who became the youngest player to ever lead the NHL in scoring after notching 120 points in the regular season, picked up his first career playoff goal, it was hardly the start he wanted.
“It’s faster, it’s more intense, but I didn’t see a whole lot of
different things besides that,” Crosby said of his initial reaction to playoff hockey. “I don’t think we weren’t ready. I think we got caught watching a little bit.”
On a Penguins team in which 15 players had never played a game in the post-season before Wednesday, he was kept in check by an Ottawa squad that was making its 10th straight playoff appearance.
Rather than pairing Crosby with talented Russian rookie Evgeni Malkin, Therrien opted to play his star centre on a line with a couple of grinders in veteran Gary Roberts and Colby Armstrong.
In almost 23 minutes of ice time, Crosby recorded just three shots on goal, getting a late power-play marker with 49 seconds remaining and the score out of reach. He finished minus-1.
“Tonight, maybe the bounces didn’t go our way or his way,” Roberts said. “I got no problem with ‘inexperience’ people think we have. I think we’ll bounce back.”
Crosby was serving a hooking penalty when Dany Heatley scored Ottawa’s fourth goal early in the third period and, to add insult to injury, had his own goal 14 seconds later disallowed by referee Paul Devorski when it was ruled he kicked the puck past Ray Emery after Emery made the initial save and Crosby slid into the Senators goaltender.
“It’s a tough one to take,” Crosby said of the call. “It probably would have given us a little more momentum after they scored. a I thought for sure it was going to be a goal.”
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a long night.
He allowed six goals on 36 shots in his playoff debut and was replaced by Jocelyn Thibault midway through the third period, although Therrien praised him for keeping the score as low as he did.
“It’s a tough game,” said Fleury, who caught his leg pad on the goal post and fell down to allow the Senators’ opening goal just 1:37 into the contest.
“Ottawa was ready.”
Therrien is hoping it’s a lesson learned. The Penguins will try to fare better in Game 2 on Saturday at Scotiabank Place.
“They learned the playoffs are another season. You’ve got to play the price mentally and physically,” he said. “They learned a lot.”