Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored and set up Kris Letang's winning goal late in the third period for a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final on Friday.
Crosby thrilled the Mellon Arena crowd with just over four minutes left in the third to put the Penguins ahead. He won a puck battle on the boards, danced around a pair of Senators, and while falling to his knees dished to Letang for a high point blast that beat Senators netminder Brian Elliott.
Crosby said his plan was to head to the net, but there was too much traffic.
"Tanger was wide open, and he got a great shot on net," said Crosby. "It's a tough shot with a lot of bodies in the way, and he found a way to get it through."
Crosby, the co-winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy as top regular-season goal scorer, has one goal and four assists in two playoff games.
For good measure, he saved a goal earlier in the third by sweeping an Ottawa shot from Pittsburgh's crease.
Peter Regin gave the Senators an early lead with a bullet wrist shot that beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury just 18 seconds into the game. Regin has scored in each of his first two playoff games.
Fleury finished with 19 saves, rebounding from a shaky outing in the opener.
"That was a tough one, definitely," said Fleury. "I guess I just tried to forget about it as quickly as possible and it was a new game tonight and the guys played awesome."
The series shifts to Ottawa tied 1-1, with Game 3 on Hockey Night in Canada on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET (CBC, CBCSports.ca).
Senators coach Cory Clouston said his team didn't have quite the same level of urgency as in the first game.
"We didn't skate quite as well as we did the other night," Clouston said. "I just thought [Pittsburgh] played with a little bit more urgency [and] a little bit more intense."
In contrast to an opening game that was at times sloppy and full of offensive rushes, Game 2 was a hard-edged affair in which space was often at a premium.
Hit from behind
Pittsburgh defenceman Jordan Leopold lay motionless on the ice for several moments in the first after falling face first as a result of a hit from Senators defenceman Andy Sutton. Leopold did not return.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Leopold would be evaluated further on Saturday.
When the buzzer sounded for the first intermission, Zack Smith of the Senators and Pittsburgh forward Maxime Talbot dropped the gloves.
Even Crosby got in on the act, hitting Jarkko Ruutu from behind into the boards early in the third.
Regin scored his second goal in as many games when he fired a wrist shot from 40 feet into the top corner just 18 seconds into the game.
"Just because you score that early doesn't necessarily mean anything," said Clouston. "In fact, sometimes it's a false sense of security for the team that scores it. I don't think that was the case [tonight]. I just thought [Pittsburgh] were ready to come."
Ottawa couldn't take advantage of a Brooks Orpik penalty just over five minutes later, and the Penguins tied the score at 8:45.
Elliott bobbled Chris Kunitz's high shot, and Crosby got his first goal of the playoffs.
The Senators goaltender was tested not long after when Evgeni Malkin's pass into the slot was re-directed toward the corner of the net.
Sutton appeared to catch Leopold at full speed with his forearm, mitigated by the fact that the Senators defenceman holds a five-inch height advantage.
"I thought it was a good hit," said Clouston. "Guy had his head down. [It] wasn't a blindside hit. I thought it was a good hit."
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Kelly forced Fleury to make saves in the first half of the second.
Alfredsson made a key defensive play midway through the second to prevent Letang from getting a good scoring opportunity.
After each team failed to convert on a power-play chance, Letang managed a slapper that Elliott kicked away with his pad.
Elliott was solid again for Ottawa, finishing with 29 saves. He had a close call five minutes into the third when a puck skidding behind him went wide of the net.
Sutton took his second minor of the game midway through the period, but despite sustained possession, the Penguins couldn't put the puck in the net.
Crosby saved a goal after a shot trickled through Fleury's pads, sweeping the puck away as it approached the goal-line.
"He's everywhere," Fleury marvelled. "That was an awesome save by him, and I owe him one for sure."
Fleury was later forced to come far out of the crease to deny Jason Spezza a breakaway chance.
At the other end, Talbot's shot saw Elliott squeeze the pads to force a stoppage, setting the stage for Crosby's heroics.
The Senators pressed in the waning seconds, but a final shot couldn't find its way through traffic in front of Fleury.
Ryan Shannon suited up for Ottawa to replace Milan Michalek, who re-aggravated a knee injury in Game 1 and is lost for the playoffs. Ottawa also won't have Alexei Kovalev for the post-season.
Pittsburgh inserted gritty Michael Rupp into the lineup for Ruslan Fedotenko.
Veteran Pittsburgh backup Brent Johnson was out due to illness. The replacement was Brad Thiessen, a finalist last year for the Hobey Baker Award as top U.S. collegiate player.