After coming out flat in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarter-final, the Ottawa Senators have a simple task in mind for Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET, CBC, CBCSports.ca) — score goals.
The Senators were shut out 4-0 in Game 1 by a team that looked nothing like the wide-eyed playoff fodder they dismantled and dismissed in short order last season.
"We feel we're a much more mature team now. That's not our team that played in Game 1 last year," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We're different, much more improved, and I think we proved that tonight."
The young Penguins are maturing, but it was veteran forward Gary Roberts who paced the team on Wednesday, scoring two goals, the first coming just over a minute into the game.
"We knew we were up against a team that really battled us last year," Roberts told CBC Sports. "We weren't going to give an inch."
Roberts was credited with a short-handed goal 18:25 into the third period to add to his impressive career numbers against Ottawa in the post-season.
The 41-year-old who returned to the lineup on April 6 after breaking a leg in December, has scored 14 of his 32 career postseason goals against the Senators.
"He does it year after year," said Crosby of Roberts. "It's great to see. When you've got a guy leading like that, you've just got to follow."
Sophomore star Evgeni Malkin showed no letdown after a breakout regular season, chipping in with a goal and two assists. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who missed nearly three months to injury, collected his first career shutout victory.
Since returning on Feb. 28 from a high ankle sprain that sidelined him in early December, Fleury has a record of 11-2-1 with a goals against average of 1.42.
"For the last 15 games, he has been the best goalie in the National Hockey League, so I am not surprised," said Penguins head coach Michel Therrien.
Senators' struggles continue
The Senators, meanwhile, are searching for answers after a disastrous second half of the regular season spilled over into Game 1.
Ottawa was kept off the scoreboard for the third time in five games and wasted seven power play opportunities — including a pair of lengthy 5-on-3 advantages.
"Those 5-on-3s have to be automatic," said Jason Spezza, who led the Senators in scoring with 92 points during the regular season. "They kill you if don't score on them.
"We did a good job to get them, we generated a lot offensively.… We got our chances."
Compounding the Senators' woes are injuries to captain Daniel Alfredsson (knee), Mike Fisher (knee) and Chris Kelly (leg).
"We had a chance to get back in it, we called a time out and had two great chances [on the first two-man advantage,] but we couldn't score," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "We're pushing to find a goal scorer right now."
In that search for goals, Martin Lapointe is expected to move to the top line with Spezza and winger Dany Heatley.
"We just need to put more pucks [at Fleury] and get some ugly goals," said Lapointe.
It's that type of urgency that Therrien is expecting from the Senators on Friday.
"We know they're going to come hard and they're going to play with a lot of desperation," said Therrien. "That's just the way it is in the playoffs. They're all big games and we know that. Our focus is there."
One positive for Ottawa is the status of defenceman Anton Volchenkov, who was cut in the forehead by a Malkin slap shot in the second period of Tuesday's game.
Volchenkov needed 15 stitches to close the wound, but he is expected back in the lineup for Game 2.
The series will move to Ottawa for Game 3 on Monday night.