The Pittsburgh Penguins outplayed the Senators in a big way last night, as they kept the pressure on all night long. It would take 54 minutes, but the Pens would finally get the first goal of the game and that would be enough to beat Ottawa. It would be Phil Kessel that would net the only goal of the game and it would come on a rebound of a blocked first attempt by him. Final score in Pittsburgh Pens 1 Sens 0.
Coming into the game, the local and some of the National Media was hammering away at Phil Kessel and his lack of production. He was very good last night and in the end, was the difference in the game.
Another guy that has been under major scrutiny was Connor Sheary. He also redeemed himself playing his best game of the playoffs. He was skating with speed and put himself in position to make plays time and again. Not to mention, he set up several opportunities.
As for the game itself, The first period was fairly evenly played. It was from that point that the Pens would play a puck control offense and limit the Senators to just 11 shots on goal in the final two periods. It took Ottawa nearly 18 minutes to get their first shot on goal in the 3rd period. To say the Pens dominated would be an understatement.
And although the Sens can look at that and say they took the Pens best and were in it till the end, I think you can look at a slightly different way. Pittsburgh figured out that they need to be patient and not careless, and as long as they do not do that Ottawa can not score. If your an Ottawa fan, that has to be troubling. Their 1-3-1 trap is effective, but it requires their team to play a very dry and uneventful style of hockey which as mentioned is effective, but not appealing.
The story last night though had to be the questionable hits from Ottawa’s Phaneuf. The first hit was legal, but would take Rust out of the game with an apparent upper body injury. The subsequent hits were more and more troublesome as he was leaving his feet and using the elbow fairly freely. The Pens would also lose Justin Schultz as he went shoulder first into the boards. Both injuries happened fairly early which meant the Pens were without two key players.
Patric Hornqvist was a scratch coming into the game as he did not skate the past two days. That could be Pittsburgh just resting Hornqvist because of his injuries or it could have been something worse. We will probably never know unless he does not return for the playoffs.
During the game last night, the first Period was the Evgeni Malkin show as he had several point blank opportunities close but Craig Anderson was very good in net yet again. Malkin was very aggressive and worked hard generating chances.
The Pens out shot the Senators 21-13 in the final two periods. And it was not until the final two minutes of the third that Ottawa needed to score to tie, that they would rack up 6 desperation shots.
A couple more quick thoughts. First off, Chris Kunitz played very well last night. This is the kind of game he came make a real difference with his physical style of play against a team that does not rely on speed. He was special last night. Olli Maatta played another strong game and his ability to pinch down when the puck was in the offensive zone to keep it in was key to the Pens puck control. That was as good a game as I have seen him play in some time.
Pens and Sens will face off on Wednesday at 8pm in Ottawa. The first of two games North of the border. The Pens will need to be ready to handle a hostile crowd as all of Canada will be cheering in force against them.