Friday, April 16, 2010

Captain Clutch!

Midway through the final period Anton Volchenkov beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with a goal that would have surely put the Senators up 2-1. He calculated all the factors with the defense and just how to beat Fleury in the perfect spot, but the one thing he didn't expect was captain Sidney Crosby to come out of nowhere and perfectly swat it away on a desperation slide behind Fleury. Yeah, it was one of those nights. Sidney Crosby essentially willed the Pens to victory by scoring the game tying goal in the first, saving a sure goal midway through the third, and making dazzling moves to lose the defense before setting up Kris Letang for the game winner. Crosby took the team on his back, and helped them recover from a Peter Regin goal just 18 seconds into the game for Ottawa. He started things off by poking the puck past Ottawa goaltender Elliott midway through the first after a great move by Chris Kunitz at the blueline. After this early scoring burst, the game would become extremely nasty and violent for the end of the first and most of the second. This animosity all began when defenseman Andy Sutton left his feet on a contraversial elbow to the head of Jordan Leopold, sending Leopold out of the game while Sutton got no penalty. The ensuing result would be a cluster of post whistle scrums and Mike Rupp checking a Senator through the zamboni doors at the end of the first. The second would be similar to the first in the physicality, but not in the scoring as there were no goals recorded in the period. The third, however, was when Sid really began to shine. Aside from his sure goal saving dive, he also made one of the highlight plays of the year behind the net to set up Letang's goal. He made four turns behind the net to lose Jason Spezza and then made a pass out to Letang from his knees. Letang, as he has been so often criticized for not doing, put the shot perfectly where it had to be to beat Elliott and give the Pens the 2-1 victory. Though Crosby elevated his game to a whole other level Friday night, there were several other notable individual performances. Mike Rupp was consistent along the boards and many times held the puck in the offensive zone with solid physical play. Rupp also finished his checks all night, and was a factor in the wearing down of the Ottawa defense. Max Talbot was a "spark plug" throughout the game, and caused much confusion in front of Elliott. He also dropped the gloves with Zack Smith at the end of the first period to turn the momentum around. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was also incredibly solid saving 19-20 after letting in the early goal to Regin. Though great individual performances (like that of Crosby) are great, what really made the Pens sucessful was their physicality as a team and their adjustment to be able to move the puck through Ottawa's tough defensive front. This was a "must-win" for Pittsburgh, and the sellout crowd created an atmosphere like no other. Instead of being down 2-0 in Ottawa, the Pens are tied 1-1 in the series and ready to continue their momentum in the next game. The next game of the series is Sunday afternoon at 6:30 in Ottawa.

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