The Ottawa Senators allowed 72 power-play goals during the regular season, more than any playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Knowing that, the Pittsburgh Penguins took full advantage on Friday night.
Ryan Malone scored twice in the final 62 seconds as the Penguins prevailed 5-3 over the visiting Senators before a raucous crowd of 17,132 at Mellon Arena.
"The score was relevant to how we played," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told CBC Sports. "We played a great game."
Malone broke a 3-3 deadlock with Pittsburgh's third power-play goal of the game 18:58 into the third period, and completed the scoring into an empty net with seven seconds remaining.
"Nobody panicked," Malone said of letting a 3-0 lead slip away. "We figured that, if we kept on going, we were getting enough chances and we would get one in sooner or later."
"I was not really worried," Penguins head coach Michel Therrien said. "Even after they tied it, I believed we were still in control of the game.
"I think our players kept their composure and were still dictating the play."
Malone's winning goal capitalized on a penalty to Martin Lapointe, who high-sticked Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu in the face.
Lapointe's untimely stickwork squandered a determined, three-goal comeback by the Senators, and a stellar 49-save effort from goaltender Martin Gerber.
"There is only so much a goaltender can do," Crosby said. "We were playing great hockey."
"They're a high-skilled team," Gerber said. "Give them room and they're going to take you apart."
Pittsburgh, which lost 4-1 to Ottawa in last spring's conference quarter-finals, took Wednesday's opener 4-0 and leads the best-of-seven series 2-0.
Game 3 goes Monday at Scotiabank Place (CBC, 7 p.m. ET).
"I saw a lot of positive things and some character," Lapointe said. "We have to go back to Ottawa, win there and start from there."
"I think our guys had a lot of character [and] played hard," Senators head coach Bryan Murray echoed. "I have to believe they will play well at home."
Petr Sykora scored twice and Sergei Gonchar for the second-seeded Penguins, whose power-play unit struck for three goals in six opportunities.
Crosby set up four goals, Evgeni Malkin had three assists, and Marian Hossa two.
"I really liked that Crosby-Hossa combination tonight," Therrien said. "They generated a lot of chances and they were hard to contain."
"Everyone was rolling," Crosby said. "When everyone is doing that, it makes everyone's life easier."
Shean Donovan, Cory Stillman and rookie Cody Bass scored for the seventh-ranked Senators.
"Every little chance they got went in," Crosby said. "Their chances weren't that amazing.
"Those [were] playoffs goals. But they weren't Grade-A scoring chances, by any means."
The Senators were missing injured captain Daniel Alfredsson (knee), Mike Fisher (knee) and Chris Kelly (leg).
Spezza, Ottawa's leading scorer with 92 points, was caught wincing in pain and clutching his left knee as he bolted for the dressing room in the first period following a collision with Penguins defenceman Kris Letang.
Spezza returned a few minutes later and played a regular shift, as did defenceman Anton Volchenkov, who needed 15 stitches to seal a gash to the head when he struck by the puck in Game 1.
'It was a rocket'
Gonchar opened the scoring 16:10 into the first period on the tail end of a two-man advantage, stepping into Malkin's soft pass and ripping a rising slapshot past Gerber, who was screened by Gary Roberts.
"It was a rocket," Penguins defenceman Ryan Whitney said of Gonchar's power-play goal. "They finally set it up the way they wanted and got what they wanted."
Crosby, Malkin and Sykora combined to put Pittsburgh ahead 2-0 with a stunning tic-tac-toe play 5:22 into the second period.
Crosby collected the puck at the faceoff circle and fired a hard pass through the offensive zone to Malkin, who whisked it by Gerber's outstretched right pad to Sykora for an easy tap-in at the right post.
Exactly 5½ minutes later, Ryan Malone was foiled on a breakaway as he stepped out of the penalty box, but Malkin retrieved the puck in the offensive zone and faked a slapshot before sliding a cross-ice pass to Sykora, who blasted a one-timer by Gerber for his second goal of the period and third of the series.
Ottawa struck back in 33 seconds, though, as a hard-charging Donovan redirected Chris Neil's pass by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury at 11:25.
Stillman trimmed it to 3-2 with a power-play goal, stuffing the puck between Fleury's pads on a give-and-go with Dany Heatley with 3:49 left to intermission.
The Senators tied it 8:51 into the third period as Randy Robitaille lugged the puck into the Pittsburgh zone, put on the brakes and fed Bass, who slipped his own rebound under Fleury for his first-ever NHL playoff goal.
"When it was 3-3, we weren't happy," Crosby said. "But we had to keep playing the way we were and we got rewarded.
"We knew if we kept playing like that, we would be fine."
Fleury, who kept the Senators off the scoresheet for the first 91:25 of the series, posted 27 saves in the win.
Fleury went a 10-2-1 over his final 13 regular-season starts, and kicked out 26 shots for his first post-season shutout in Game 1.