PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Byslma summed it up succinctly.
In his words, the goal which effectively finished off the Ottawa Senators in Tuesday’s series opener – Chris Kunitz’s power play goal, with 1:27 left in the second period — was a “blue paint goal.”
In other words, Kunitz went to the so-called dirty area in front of the net, beating Senators defencemen Chris Phillips and Marc Methot to the loose puck.
Suddenly, the momentum the Senators had held only moments earlier was gone. Instead of nursing a dicey 2-1 lead, the Penguins had an insurmountable 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
It should come as no surprise that, to a man, the Senators were singing from the same songbook after the game.
“We have to be better at both nets,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “I think that was a big difference. We have to be stronger in front of both nets.”
Alfredsson got no argument from goaltender Craig Anderson.
“We got a lot of pucks to their net and there were definitely some pucks lying around,” he said. “They were pretty tough around the net and really kept us from getting second and third chances. We have to be tougher in front of our own net and we have to be tougher in front of their net and try to get to those chances and make them count.”
And then there was this from coach Paul MacLean.
“At the nets, they were harder,” MacLean said. “They were harder at our net. They were harder at their net and that’s something we have to get better at, but we will get better at.”
So, anyone unclear on the message?
The Penguins first goal, on the power play, came after Paul Martin’s shot from inside the blue line deflected off Jared Cowen and past Anderson. Anderson had a tough time seeing the puck through the traffic created by the Penguins forwards.
Colin Greening fought for the loose puck to tie the game for the Senators, but Evgeni Malkin got that one back when he took advantage of some shaky play by the defence tandem of Cowen and Eric Gryba. Cowen gave away the puck behind the net and lost Malkin at the net.
For an explanation of what happened on Kunitz’s back-breaking goal, please see above.
THE INJURY UPDATES
On Eric Gryba: MacLean had no update on Gryba’s status following the game. The official word during the third period was that he had suffered an upper body injury following his collision with Penguins’ horse Brooks Orpik at the blueline late in the second period.
On Jason Spezza: In a game where the Senators power play again came up empty, Jason Spezza might just have made a difference, but if he’s getting close to returning, MacLean wasn’t ready to say. “He practiced (Tuesday), got an hour and half skate in. Every day he skates is a step closer or a step in progress for him.”
26:58: Erik Karlsson’s ice time.
23:40: Kris Letang’s ice time
36: Shots by the Senators (Marc Methot, Milan Michalek and Mika Zibanejad with four)
30: Shots by the Penguins (Paul Martin, Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby with four)
26: Hits by the Senators (Chris Neil with five)
40: Hits by the Penguins (Chris Kunitz, Matt Cooke with five)
18: Blocked shots by Penguins (5 by Douglas Murray)
6: Blocked shots by Senators