View from Ottawa: Senators need Crosby clone

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Over to you, Senators.

Anyone care to take on the role of Sidney Crosby to lift your team to greater heights as he did Friday night in Pittsburgh?

Big picture snapshot: The Senators are not in a bad place, having gained a road split against the favored Penguins, losing Game 2 by one goal, on an all-world play by Crosby, the Penguins' captain and heart and soul center.

In Game 1, the Senators surprised the defending Stanley Cup champions, caught them snoozing on their pedestal and were full value for a 5-4 win. Yes, the Senators took advantage of a couple of fortuitous bounces, but Ottawa was the hungrier team in the opener, causing the Penguins to escalate in Game 2.

Given Crosby's colossal night, it still might not have been enough. Crosby scored Pittsburgh's first goal, to tie the score, rescued his goaltender by scooping an Anton Volchenkov shot from the goal line and used every ounce of his talent to spin away from Jason Spezza before Crosby, now on his knees (where he does some of his best work), found Kris Letang for the fateful point shot that beat goaltender Brian Elliott over his glove.

Never saw it. Series tied headed back to Scotiabank Place for Games 3 and 4 tonight and Tuesday.

"Against him, you've got to try to contain him," Spezza said afterward, about his task of covering the slippery, twirling No. 87 behind the Senators' net.

While he hardly is regarded as a defensive center, Spezza stayed with Crosby remarkably well, casting a big shadow on Sid but unable to do anything about the jitterbug moves.

In the Penguins' dressing room, players were teasing Bill Guerin for getting the second assist on the winning goal -- Billy touched the puck about 40 seconds before it went in, they joked, alluding to how long Crosby controlled the puck before dishing to Letang.

"I tried to stick with him down low," Spezza said. "I wish it would have turned out differently ... it's a frustrating way to lose, but we'll move on."

Here's the question heading into Game 3: Who from Ottawa can take a game in his hands like Crosby did Friday?

Spezza? Daniel Alfredsson? The young Danish sniper, Peter Regin?

Expect a big night in Game 3 from all three members of the top line..

And the Senators need to get more pucks deep as they did in Game 1 against a sluggish Penguins team, using their crop of physical wingers (Mike Fisher, Nick Foligno, Zack Smith, Jesse Winchester etc.) to generate cycles and wear out the Penguins' defense.

"They're not a physical defense corps," as Fisher noted Saturday.

"That's what we've got to exploit."

Already both sides have lost a key starter -- Senators forward Milan Michalek to a torn ACL and Penguins defenseman Jordan Leopold on that devastating hit to the head by Andy Sutton.

It's way too early to suggest the series is leaning one way or another. Momentum can turn on a dime, and the Senators will be more comfortable matching lines and playing their defensive system at home. Veteran Senators winger Jarkko Ruutu paraphrased the great Satchel Paige as he explained his playoff philosophy, gleaned from experience.

"Whether you win or lose, you don't look back," Ruutu said, "you look ahead."

Because something might be gaining on you.



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