Cook: Penguins/Senators a series again after missed chances



OTTAWA -- It isn't the tying goal that Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson scored with 28.6 seconds left in regulation Sunday night to force overtime that will haunt the heavily favored Penguins if they somehow stumble out of these Stanley Cup playoffs in the second round, although there was plenty not to like about coach Dan Bylsma's choice of personnel in that final minute.

It isn't even the winning goal by Ottawa's Colin Greening at 7:39 of the second overtime that gave the Senators a 2-1 win in Game 3 at Scotiabank Place, not to mention new, unexpected life in a series that appeared to be headed toward an inevitable Penguins sweep.

It's the blown opportunities.

Bylsma talks about 2-1 double overtime loss to Ottawa in Game 3

Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma discusses his team's 2-1 double-overtime loss to the Senators Sunday night in Game 3. (Video by Matt Freed; 5/19/2013)

They are why the Penguins' 2-1 lead in the series going into Game 4 here Wednesday night doesn't seem quite so daunting to the Senators.

The Penguins, though still in good shape, still the better team and still the pick here to win the series, are going to need the extra day off before the next game to get over this hurtful loss.

The best player in the world couldn't score on a breakaway for the Penguins early in the second period. Sidney Crosby was stoned by Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson after taking a sweet pass from teammate Kris Letang, turning on his amazing speed and splitting defensemen Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar to cruise alone down the slot.

The best power play in these Stanley Cup playoffs couldn't score for the Penguins with a 5-on-3 advantage for 58 seconds moments later in the second period. Anderson stopped good scoring chances by Evgeni Malkin and Crosby. Malkin slammed his stick on the ice in disgust after Anderson denied him.

The Penguins' power play also couldn't score when Phillips was called for holding Matt Cooke at 1:56 of the second overtime. That seemed about right. The power play was bad all game.

Who saw that coming?

The Penguins' power play came in having converted 10 of its 31 opportunities. In this game, it was 0 for 6. The Penguins were on the power play when Alfredsson scored, although the Senators had pulled Anderson from the net.

The game seemed over when Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson was called for slashing with 1:27 left in regulation and the Penguins leading, 1-0. "You like to think you can hold on to puck for the last 1:27," Bylsma said. "That wasn't the case. They came up with a huge goal."

Among the players the Penguins had on the ice at the end of regulation were power-play specialists Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Letang. Why? The Penguins didn't need another goal. Why not the team's top defensive forwards on the ice? Where was Cooke and Craig Adams or Pascal Dupuis and Tanner Glass? And why was Letang out there on defense with Paul Martin instead of Brooks Orpik, the usual shutdown defenseman on the penalty-kill?

Bylsma chose to give credit to the Senators, especially to Alfredsson, who set up the winning goal with a drop-pass to teammate Milan Michalek before charging toward the net. "That created a gap in our group," Bylsma said.

The goal, as well as the finish, created a lot of disgust in the Penguins room as midnight approached.

"To give up a goal on the power play in the final minute is unacceptable," Orpik said. "It should have never gone to overtime. Winning 1-0 is fine."

Anderson was spectacular for the Senators with 49 saves. He had a fabulous save on Malkin early in overtime and also got a little help from the post when Dupuis banged a shot off the iron with about 11 minutes left in the first extra period.

Greening's second-overtime goal after a rebound made for an unfortunate ending for the Penguins because goaltender Tomas Vokoun deserved so much better. Vokoun continued to play superb hockey, making 46 saves. It looked as if he were going to run his record in these playoffs to 5-0 when he stole a goal from the Senators' Chris Neil with a leg save with about 11 minutes left in regulation.

But the Senators kept coming. The Penguins couldn't get that second goal despite numerous chances. Somehow, it seemed appropriate that Greening got it. The Senators were the better team for a large part of the game and were duly rewarded.

And their fans who left late in regulation before Alfredsson's goal?

They're beating themselves up this morning because they know what they missed.

One of the great comebacks in Ottawa playoff history and one of the more painful postseason losses for the Penguins.

Suddenly, it's a series.

mobilehome - penguins - roncook

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. First Published May 20, 2013 5:00 AM


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