Sunday, April 18, 2010

Road Warriors!

Friday was all about the individual effort of Sidney Crosby, tonight it was all about the team. Every one of the Pens put in a strong performance on the road to get a 4-2 victory and take a critical 2-1 lead in the series. The scorers were scoring, the grinders were grinding, and the defenseman for the most part shut down the Sens. This seems to be the ideal performance that Pittsburgh has been waiting for, and they should strive to replicate it in the future. They got the game started on the right foot when Alexei Ponikarovsky ripped one past Brian Elliott just over a minute into the game. This was part of a performance that everyone has been waiting for for Ponikarovsky, who was arguably the Pens' "weak link" in the first two games of the series. As well as his goal, he racked up a good number of hits and was "in the right place at the right time." After giving up a Mike Fisher powerplay goal to start the second, the Pens fought back to answer quickly when Evgeni Malkin scored into an empty net after an impressive pass from Max Talbot. Sidney Crosby gave the Pens the ultimate momentum clincher when he took the puck in the corner boards and skated across the ice before beating Elliott on the other side of the ice. This was so important because it was a powerplay goal, and it occurred with only 45 seconds remaining in the second period. Pittsburgh and Ottawa would exchange goals in the third with Matt Cullen scoring for the Senators and Billy Guerin beating Elliott with a nice double move on a breakaway. As I previously mentioned, this was a great game for Pittsburgh. The momentum gained by playing that well, especially on the road, should likely carry over into the rest of the series. Marc-Andre Fleury also put another strong performance in, stopping 20-22 shots and getting his 2nd win of the 2010 playoffs. I said before that it was a full team effort, and not just the scorers played a part. Mark Eaton willingly dropped the gloves with an "overly-feisty" Jarkko Ruutu, who looked ready to take a run at Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang. Jay McKee, who replaced injured Jordan Leopold, was very important with his shot blocking and kept some difficult shots from hitting Fleury. Sergei Gonchar led the team with total ice time, got an assist on the first goal, and was a +2 for the game. And it was also another strong game from Alex Goligoski, who got nearly 22 minutes of time and was also a +2. If the Pens can consistently get these performances, they may be looking at another deep playoff run. It will be a challenge, though, as Ottawa will certainly not go down lightly. The certainly hungry Sens will next play the Pens Tuesday night in Ottawa, in what may turn out to be the pivotal game of the series.

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