What began as a promising evening turned into a ugly affair for the Ottawa Senators. They were on the wrong end of a 7-3 decision and now trail the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the second-round series.
OTTAWA -- There only was so much goalie Craig Anderson could do for his Ottawa Senators teammates.
He had been nearly flawless since his return to the nation's capital for Games 3 and 4 of the East semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had surrendered only two goals through 5 ½ periods. He had turned aside 64 of 66 shots to keep his club close.
He had frustrated Sidney Crosby on a breakaway. He stoned Evgeni Malkin off a dandy rush. Anderson always seemed to be in the right position.
Even Penguins coach Dan Bylsma admitted in his remarks after his club's 7-3 win that he felt it was going to be one of those nights, that his players might have to fire 50 shots at Anderson to win.
Then, with the Senators in front 2-1, the puck was dropped for the second period of Game 4 on Wednesday. Early in the period, Senators defenceman got roughed up along the boards just inside the Pittsburgh blue-line. As he made his way to the bench, the Penguins moved the puck up swiftly the other way.
Asking Anderson to stop a two-on-0 break by Penguins Chris Kunitz and Malkin was a little much. Kunitz kept the puck and scored on a breakaway.
Forty seconds later, Anderson watched as four Penguins barreled in on him. This odd-man rush resulted in a goal from Jarome Iginla.
An hour or so later, with Anderson on the bench after he was replaced by backup Robin Lehner in the third period, the Penguins skated off the Scotiabank Place ice surface with a 3-1 series lead.
Plenty went right for Penguins
Everything that the Senators needed to do, they did not. Plenty went right for the Penguins. Even their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton capped off a 3-0 series comeback to win their second-round matchup over the Providence Bruins.
Senators head coach Paul MacLean didn't have anything nice to say about his team's collapse in the second and third periods. So he simply held up the game sheet and said to the assembled group of reporters that the story was right there in the 7-3 score.
He ended his brief appearance with, "see you in Pittsburgh. We're going to Pittsburgh and we're coming to play."
If the Senators achieve success in Pittsburgh on Friday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET), they know the areas that need improvement. They need to keep the game low scoring with tight-checking and closing the gap between the forwards and defence -- not the loose positional hockey they played on Wednesday.
They also can't be sloppy on special teams. The penalty-killing unit was so brilliant in the second-half of Game 2, the entire Game 3 and started off well in Game 4. It went a perfect 11-for-11 and scored two short-handed goals to boot. But that part of Ottawa's game flat lined in the third period, when Pittsburgh not only scored two power-play goals, Pascal Dupuis also checked in with a short-handed marker.
Senators 39-year-old defenceman Sergei Gonchar also has to be better. He was on the ice for four goals. He gets a pass on the Kunitz goal because he was caught up the ice as he hopped over the boards for the injured Karlsson. But he also was in the penalty box for James Neal's power-play goal early in the third period when the Senators were still in the game.
Yes, it looks like the pesky Sens have run out of lifelines. The thought that this may have been captain Daniel Alfredsson's final home game immediately surfaced after the game. The 40-year-old heart and soul of the Senators won't make a decision on his future until the summer, but he did retrieve the puck from the linesmen at game's end. He remarked later that the puck was for his children.
He even wondered out loud whether the Penguins simply had too much depth. But he later stated that the Senators would "play one heck of a game" in Game 5.
He also added, "I don't think we have much going for us. But maybe that's the way we like it."
Tim WharnsbyTim's worked the sports beat at The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun, specializing in Canada's one true sporting obsession - hockey. He knows the players, the coaches, the backroom boys and most importantly, the fans. That's what he brings to his stories. Knowledge, fairness and understanding are trademarks of a Wharnsby story. That's what you will get here as he writes for CBCSports.ca.