NHL playoffs 2017: Senators dominate Penguins, take East finals lead in rout
Marc-Andre Fleury takes a seat, and Pittsburgh goes down hard in Game 3
Going up 4-0 on just 12 shots in the first 13 minutes, sending Marc-Andre Fleury to the bench and downing the Pens in a performance reminiscent of Pittsburgh's Game 6 dud against the Washington Capitals, the Senators claimed a 5-1 rout to swipe a lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Even in their 1-0 loss to Pittsburgh two days earlier, Guy Boucher's defensively geared underdogs often had Sidney Crosby, Conor Sheary and a frustrated Evgeni Malkin missing in action, showcasing the stingy blue-line play that fueled a Game 1 upset and the team's improbable run to the conference finals in the first place.
That same defensive dominance was showcased Wednesday with Craig Anderson holding down the fort in the net, slipping up only on a late Crosby tapper off a shot from Phil Kessel, and Erik Karlsson and the Sens' defensemen touting active sticks to thwart any semblance of an early Pens rally.
Ottawa banked in a shot in the opening minute, went up by four with a wrap-around Zack Smith goal that caught Fleury off guard and then basked in Pittsburgh's struggles after a jarring collision between Malkin and teammate Trevor Daley. This set the tone for the rest of a night owned by the overlooked Senators.
One thing is for certain: Ottawa certainly was not boring Wednesday night.
The Sens still need work on their power play. The Penguins will have the excuse of missing a trio of injured defensemen (when don't they?). And it's unreasonable to assume both that Pittsburgh, with its postseason history and offensive firepower, will come out so ill-prepared in Game 4 and that Ottawa, with its dependence on "D," will regularly top Wednesday's outburst of goals.
But Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals belonged to the Sens, and that statement alone should indicate that Ottawa cannot be taken for granted. If the Pens' closest thing to showing their fire for a run at a repeat title is a retaliatory swing from Malkin, as it very nearly was Wednesday night in the Canadian Tire Centre, Pittsburgh had better wake up in a hurry.
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