Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson, left, lets in a goal by Pittsburgh Penguins sniper Sidney Crosby, not shown, as Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis, right, and Ottawa Senators winger Cory Conacher watch during the first period of Game 2 in Pittsburgh, Penn. (Jason Cohn/Reuters)
Can the Ottawa Senators find a way to push themselves back in their East semifinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins? Has their Cinderella season run out of happy endings? It sure looks bleak for the pesky Senators after they dropped a 4-3 decision in Game 2.
All season long the underdog Ottawa Senators have found a way to bulldoze their way past grim circumstances.
When they lost key players like Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek and Craig Anderson for lengthy periods of time, they kept winning. When they struggled late in the regular season to put their playoff spot in a precarious position, the Senators managed to win two of their last three outings to snatch a spot.
But can the Senators find a way to push themselves back in their East semifinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins? Has their Cinderella season run out of happy endings?
Maybe a return home for Game 3 on Sunday will do the Senators some good. They have been a much better team at Scotiabank Place all season. They had the fourth best home record at 15-6-3 in the regular season in the East and went two-for-two in the first round of the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens.
They better hope their magic at home continues because there wasn't much good about their game in Pittsburgh, even though they were beaten only by a goal on Friday.
In both defeats, there were many similarities for the Senators.
They started slow.
They took too many penalties against a team that has the best power play in the league. The Penguins had 10 man-advantage situations to Ottawa's seven in the first two games.
They have made it easy for the Penguins to make a good first pass out of their own end.
They have not made a good first pass out their own end.
They have not been good in Pittsburgh's end to put any sustained pressure on their opponents.
They could use some better finish around the Pittsburgh goal. Both Colin Greening and Cory Conacher were stopped on breakaways in the second period.
Karlsson needs to find his game. He's struggling big-time right now.
Karlsson played only 15 minutes and 37 seconds on Friday, the lowest amount of ice time among the Senators six defenceman.
"He played 15:37," said Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean, just under 10 minutes less than his team-leading average of 25:14 through seven playoff games. "So obviously he wasn't one of our best players. He didn't play well."
The 22-year-old Swede exhibited his frustration after the game when a Pittsburgh-based reporter asked him what happened on the first of Sidney Crosby's three goals.
"Are you blind?" he said, staring coldly back at his interrogator. What happened was Crosby did a little inside-outside maneuvre to breeze by the Ottawa defenceman.
"I don't really know," Karlsson said earlier when asked about his struggles. "I don't think I have an answer. I have to figure that out."
MacLean has to figure out who will play in goal for the Senators on Sunday. Will he go back to Anderson, who was yanked early in the second period after Crosby's hat trick goal on the power play, or give backup Robin Lehner a chance?
Crosby now has 39 goals and 102 points in 75 career Stanley Cup playoff games to become the fifth fastest to 100 playoff points in NHL history behind Wayne Gretzky (46 games), Mario Lemieux (50), Jari Kurri (67) and Mike Bossy (74).
Anderson could be faulted on the second Crosby goal from a bad angle, but he had no chance on the other two. After the 3-1 goal from Crosby, Anderson was lifted in an attempt to change momentum. He likely will be back in goal on Sunday.
It would be nice if more of his teammates show up, too.
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.