No one really likes to admit it but a lot of things change in the NHL playoffs as compared to the regular season. Fighting virtually disappears. Teams make a conscious effort to play smarter. Power play opportunities become even more precious than they normally are. Apparently the Ottawa Senators didn’t receive that memo. Know what would make Ottawa even angrier? Something that brings back memories like this picture:
The Pittsburgh Penguins took game one of this best of seven series by a score of 4-1 and special teams were the story. They had four power plays in the game and they scored on two of them. Paul Martin scored the first goal of the game less than three minutes into it and Chris Kunitz scored a power play goal in the final minutes of the second period.
Good power plays are to be expected from the Penguins. They did it all year. What wasn’t expected is the way they handled the penalty kill. If this team had one weakness during the regular season, it was their penalty kill. It got plenty of practice tonight. James Neal had one of his worst games. He put the Pens into shorthanded situations three times by himself. Overall, the Penguins were forced to kill five penalties and they were perfect. They even scored their fourth goal shorthanded thanks to Pascal Dupuis.
Going against what I suggested in my preview, Tomas Vokoun got his third straight start in net for the Penguins. It looks like they have every intention to ride or die with Vokoun at this point. It’s working so far. He stopped 35 shots from the Senators tonight. The only goal was scored early in the first period by Colin Greening. It was Greening’s first career playoff goal and was a pretty soft goal for Vokoun to give up but he rebounded nicely and shut the door after that.
The Pens basically made none of the changes to the lineup that I thought they would in my preview. That was kind of expected though. Dan Bylsma has a history of not making changes after wins. The only change that was made was the insertion of Deryk Engelland into the lineup in place of Simon Despres. I’m not a big fan of that but it didn’t hurt anything….so whatever.
Going into the third period with just a two goal deficit, you would have thought that the Senators had no chance to get back into it. They went right back to their agitating style of play in the third. Chris Neil was running around like the talentless hack that he is. There was a big dust up in the final minutes of the game that involved pretty much everyone that was on the ice. The entire period was essentially the Senators attempting to send a message for game two instead of worrying about competing in game one. Good luck with that. It really didn’t work. If inflicting pain was the goal, the Penguins actually did more of that. Brooks Orpik crushed Eric Gryba in the second period. Gryba did not return. And if you recall, Gryba was the one who knocked out Lars Eller in the first round. I wonder if the Trib will have a “First Blood Pens” sports cover.
Evgeni Malkin was the other goal scorer for the Penguins. He also assisted on Martin’s goal to extend his point streak to seven straight games. I’m sure Mark Madden will still find something he screwed up.