Faster start mandatory, not optional for Game 2

Therrien will throw Fleury back into fire

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OTTAWA -- The Penguins held a practice at Scotiabank Place yesterday afternoon.

Attendance was mandatory.

Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche gives instruction to Marc-Andre Fleury at practice yesterday at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Click photo for larger image.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1
Game 2: 3 p.m. tomorrow
TV: WPXI


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Presumably because so many guys seemed to feel that participating in the game there the previous night had been optional.

The early part of it, anyway. The part when the outcome of Ottawa's 6-3 victory in Game 1 of this first-round playoff series became everything but official.

Simply put, by the time the Penguins seemed to grasp the game had begun, it was pretty much over.

"We sat back and tried to feel it out," center Sidney Crosby said yesterday. "And, by that time, they had scored two goals. We have to make sure we try to play our game right away."

They'll get that opportunity tomorrow, when they face the Senators in Game 2 here at 3:08 p.m.

Whether coach Michel Therrien will reconfigure his lineup for that game is not clear, but Marc-Andre Fleury will be back in goal.

He stopped 30 of 36 shots before being pulled midway through the third period in Game 1 -- "I saw a lot of shots [Wednesday] night in my sleep," Fleury said, with a grim smile -- but Therrien and his teammates absolved him of major responsibility for the defeat, even though Fleury said flatly that, "I know I can do better."

He has a point, and the same applies to most of his teammates. Which is a big part of the reason the Penguins have remained optimistic about how this series will play out -- and that's without anyone pointing out that Ottawa never has won the first two games of a playoff series.

"If we had played our best game and they still gave it to us like that, I think we might be a little worried," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "But I don't think we were very close to what we can do."

They better hope not, because the Penguins weren't much more than props in a Senators highlights film for most of the first two periods. From a Penguins perspective, it was scarier than anything Wes Craven could dream of producing.

"We did a lot of things which we're not supposed to do," defenseman Sergei Gonchar said.

Yeah, like watching Senators skate by them, get possession of nearly every loose puck and launch one high-percentage shot after another at Fleury.

It's a tribute to the conditioning of Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson that he did not do season-ending damage to his right shoulder, considering the volume and velocity of pucks he hammered toward the Penguins' net. He was credited with eight, but that doesn't count the many that were blocked or went wide.

Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal for the Penguins tomorrow against the Senators in Ottawa.
Click photo for larger image.

About the only thing the Penguins did well was to kill 5-on-3 power plays. The Senators had two for a total of 3 minutes, 34 seconds and never came particularly close to scoring.

Unfortunately for the Penguins, their penalties expired eventually, and they had to go back to playing at full strength. Which was usually when it looked as if Ottawa had a couple of extra guys on the ice.

"That was a bad day," Therrien said. "And bad days happen."

True enough, but they don't often happen more than once to teams intent on measuring their stay in the playoffs by anything larger than hours.

There obviously was little about Game 1 for the Penguins to like, except that it's over and they apparently got through it without a significant injury. Still, they don't seem overly concerned about the possibility of a sequel tomorrow.

"I don't think there's any panic in this room," defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

Nor is there any indication that, impressive as the Senators were in the opener, the Penguins are intimidated by their skating, skill or anything else.

They do -- and should -- respect what Ottawa can do. That doesn't mean they fear it.

"As soon as you let it overwhelm you, that's the time that it's probably over," Scuderi said. "Then you start playing tentative, and you're not worried about what you're doing."

And the Penguins had lots to worry about in the wake of their performance in Game 1. Like how they were outshot, 9-2, during the first seven minutes, and 29-12 the first two periods.

"Our execution was not there," Therrien said. "It's pretty simple."

So is the math: Lose tomorrow, and the Penguins will have to win four out of five to keep their season alive against a team that matched their regular-season point production.

"We're all capable of playing better," Therrien said. "And I'm expecting that we're going to be better in the next game."

Good idea, because that won't be optional, either.


Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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