OTTAWA -- Desperate hockey is that particular brand that explodes onto the ice only this time of year.
It's all tension and energy, swirling. It can't be manufactured.
The Penguins expect exactly that tonight from the Ottawa Senators, back home inside Scotiabank Place as the series shifts north of the Canadian border for Games 3 and 4.
The Penguins plan to play with their own brand of desperation. The kind that could push the series to the brink.
"I think we're desperate as well," said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. "We want the series. We want to win the series as quick as possible and we go one game at a time. ... We're going to try to win it like we try to win every game. They're going to be desperate. We're going to be desperate, too, to get the lead."
The Penguins have used blistering starts in Games 1 and 2 at Consol Energy Center to take a 2-0 series lead for the first time since the 2009 Eastern Conference final.
Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:38 p.m. today, Scotiabank Place, Ottawa.
- TV, Radio:
NBC Sports Network, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Are 6-2 in Ottawa in playoffs, including three consecutive victories. ... C Evgeni Malkin has six points in three road games this postseason. ... Have scored at least one power-play goal in 11 of their past 14 playoff games.
Won both of their home games in opening-round playoff series against Montreal. ... RW Chris Neil ranks among NHL playoff leaders with 40 hits in seven games. ... Are giving up 36 shots per game, most of any remaining playoff team.
- Hidden stat:
Senators have all-time home playoff record of 29-29.
Captain Sidney Crosby, who returned one game into the postseason against the New York Islanders, was poetry in motion Friday night, scoring a natural hat trick to lead the Penguins to a 4-3 win. He said that's got to be history.
"I think you definitely have to turn the page pretty quick and realize they're going to be playing their best. This is going to be the most desperate we've seen," said Crosby after an optional skate Saturday.
"We're going to need to play our best game. I think you're happy you [were] able to play well at home, but you know your toughest game is coming."
Tonight, a feverish crowd figures to welcome the Senators back home and be particularly energized by the return of star center Jason Spezza, out for months with a back injury.
Exactly how does a road team contend with that kind of motivation?
"We definitely don't want to get into an emotional game up and down or even an after-the-whistle type of game," said coach Dan Bylsma.
"I think we're going to be looking at [trying] to come up with the same kind of start we've had the last two games. Even more important in this game with the added emotion and added jump from being home. [We'll be] trying to get to the offensive zone and slow this game down a little bit."
The approach, said Bylsma, starts from the second the puck drops and requires possession time in the Senators' defensive zone.
"We like the way we've started," said Bylsma. "We like the way we've played off the start. Zone time, offensive time to start games, but certainly [there are] areas of our game where we are aware of and can be better at.
"They're dangerous with speed, last game coming out of the defensive zone they had guys going with speed. [Colin Greening's] goal is an example of that situation. Now what they add with Spezza as well, they'll be dangerous."
The Penguins finished the game Friday night with the advantage in shots (42-22), blocks and power plays, but will face Ottawa in a building the Senators were 17-6-3 this season.
"We played well at home. Our expectation is to play well," said Senators coach Paul MacLean. "Our fans have been outstanding for us in the regular season. That's what we look for. It's up to us to make this a playoff series.
"We need to win a game to make it a series."
The Penguins would like to thwart that.
"If you can find a way to get the momentum early it helps," said Crosby.
"I think they're going to be desperate, and we know this is going to be the toughest test yet, so we've got to start well but just play a complete game and give ourselves a chance."
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published May 19, 2013 4:00 AM