Pittsburgh Penguins fall to Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of Eastern Conference final
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins felt like they’d finally hit their stride heading into the locker room after the third period.
After going scoreless through the first two periods, the Penguins got on the board at the 5:35 mark of the third period. That was enough to tie the game 1-1 and bring some life back into the building,
In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to give Pittsburgh a win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final. Instead, Bobby Ryan got the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury 4:59 into overtime and Senators picked up a 2-1 win to take a 1-0 series lead.
“Third period we played so much better,” Evgeni Malkin said. “We talked in the locker room, we understand how they play and we started playing better. Overtime, that goal, we lost one guy and they scored.”
The Penguins struggled to score all night, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Pittsburgh had five power play opportunities and outshot the Senators 19-88 in the first two periods, but couldn’t get the puck past Ottawa goalkeeper Craig Anderson. He finished with 27 saves.
“I knew right off the bat, taking a couple penalties, that we had to be on our game,” Anderson said. “The penalty kill came out and did a great job as far as getting momentum for us.
“If we give up a goal early there I think the building erupts as you saw when they scored in the third. Because we were able to kill those penalties early in the game, we took any momentum they generated from there.”
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan said the Penguins struggled to execute on the power play.
“The passes weren’t crisp,” he said. “Those guys for most of the playoffs here have been really good and locked in. They’ve done a commendable job for us for most of the playoffs, but for whatever reason tonight we didn’t seem to execute in the first period.”
Fleury kept Pittsburgh in the game, making 18 saves in the first two periods and finishing with 33. Ottawa’s lone regulation goal stemmed from a miscommunication between Brian Dumoulin and Ron Hainsey behind the Penguins’ net at the 14:32 mark of the first period.
The lack of scoring drained the enthusiasm from a crowd that started the game still buzzing from the excitement from Pittsburgh’s Game 7 win over the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Late in the third period, the Penguins finally gave their fans something to cheer about. It was Malkin — off assists from Chris Kunitz and Hainsey — who beat Anderson to tie the game 1-1.
That sent Pittsburgh into the intermission with the momentum, but they couldn’t hold onto it for long. Now, the Penguins will try to bounce back and tie the series in Game 2 on Wednesday.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Kunitz said. “We know how they like to hold up in the neutral zone and make it tough on you, but we have to execute. We still have to be better.
We had spurts and shifts where we executed really well in the neutral zone, but we have to put more pucks in. … We got to execute better when we have the opportunities.”