Having defenseman Sergei Gonchar back at Consol Energy Center -- even if he is playing for Ottawa against the Penguins in the second round of the playoffs -- reminded coach Dan Bylsma of how much Gonchar helped with a couple of young teammates years ago.
Gonchar was a steady defenseman, power-play quarterback and quiet leader when center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang broke into the NHL with the Penguins.
"[Malkin] coming over to the United States with not a lot of experience, not a lot of English, to have Sergei here with him not only because he's a fellow Russian but also an older, more experience guy, was a huge factor in Evgeni's success in coming here, getting started here, playing and having success -- not only Pittsburgh, but in the National Hockey League," Bylsma said Thursday on the eve of Game 2 in the Penguins-Senators series.
"I think that continued, not just initially for him getting over here, but it continued for years of adjusting and dealing with, learning the language, the culture, all those things."
Bylsma said by the time Gonchar left the Penguins to sign with Ottawa in 2010, Malkin was ready to step out from under Gonchar's wing. By that time, Malkin had long since moved out of Gonchar's home and into his own house.
With Letang, Gonchar was able to transfer knowledge that related to their shared position, not just as a defensemen but as the No. 1 defensemen.
"Just the demeanor, how [Gonchar] plays, plays his position, controls the ice, plays on the power play. Even how he works," Bylsma said.
The net result
Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said his team will need a stronger presence in front of the Penguins net tonight and the rest of this series.
Many pucks lingered in or near the crease in Ottawa's 4-1 loss in Game 1, and they later were identified as lost opportunities.
"I thought there was a number of pucks around the opposition's net we could've competed hard for. We have to make sure we're more competitive at the nets. That's an important part of playoff hockey," said MacLean.
Overtime heroes everywhere
The opening game against Ottawa never threatened to reach overtime, but, if one is tied at the end of regulation, several players know how to win such a game.
Eight Penguins -- including Chris Kunitz and Brooks Orpik in the first round this year against the New York Islanders -- and four Senators have scored in overtime of a playoff game. Ottawa's Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson have done it twice.
Penguins winger Brenden Morrow can top that. He did it three times while with Dallas and knows how exhilarating it is.
"Any kid growing up watching this game dreams of scoring an overtime goal," Morrow said. "So, when you see guys like [Orpik] and [Kunitz] scoring those goals, you know the feeling they're going through. I'm pretty excited for them."
Morrow scored at 6:22 of overtime April 19, 2007, to lift the Dallas Stars to a 1-0 overtime victory in Game 5 of the first round. He scored at 4:39 of overtime April 25, 2008, for the Stars' 3-2 win against San Jose in Game 1 of the second round.
His third one, though, was something else.
"They're all pretty special, but that one probably stands out because it was a series-clinching goal," Morrow said.
It also came in quadruple overtime, 69 minutes, 3 seconds past the end of regulation.
"It was San Jose. Game 6," Morrow recalled that second-round game May 4, 2008. "We were on the power play. Stephane Robidas made a good play along the boards and just threaded the needle to me back-door. It was pretty easy."
Except for the physical toll of playing in such a long game.
"Every situation is probably a little different, but that one you're not really thinking much at that point. You're going on fumes," Morrow said.
He doesn't have any secrets for scoring in overtime in the playoffs.
"I was just in the right place at the right time on some of them, and some of them are lucky bounces. Usually, the majority of overtime goals are sloppy plays and rebound goals. There's not too many that are coast-to-coast or highlight-reel goals."
MacLean said defenseman Eric Gryba's availability will be a game-time decision. Gryba, who did not practice Thursday, was wobbly and had an unspecified injury after a collision with Orpik in Game 1 that sent him off the ice late in the second period. ... The Penguins had full attendance at practice.penguins
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