Stanley Cup playoffs: Penguins fall to Senators, 5-4
Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson scores past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period of Wednesday's game at Mellon Arena.
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The Penguins needed the better part of 82 games to earn home-ice advantage for Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but only 60 minutes to squander it.
They spent the first few shifts of Game 1 against Ottawa showing just how dominant they can be, but spent far too many of those that followed proving they can lose their edge as emphatically in the playoffs as they did in the regular season.
They allowed a Senators goalie making his Stanley Cup debut -- and not looking terribly impressive in the process -- to get away with facing just 21 shots, while the goalie who helped the Penguins win a championship last spring allowed a few shots that he has to stop to leak through.
Which is part of the reason the Penguins meekly surrendered almost any momentum they managed to generate over the course of the night.
Remember that switch everyone wondered if they would be able to flip on once the playoffs began? Well, if their 5-4 loss to the Senators at Mellon Arena is any indication, it still is stuck in the "Off" position.
Oh, the game was not a total write-off -- Evgeni Malkin scored a couple of goals, Sidney Crosby set up three and the power play converted 40 percent of its chances -- but it hardly was the preferred way to open a title defense, either.
"We weren't as good as we needed to be," forward Craig Adams said.
The Senators were, even though coach Cory Clouston said, "we know we can be better." Ottawa was efficient and opportunistic, limiting the exposure of goalie Brian Elliott while exploiting a healthy percentage of the lapses by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury or the guys in front of him.
Fleury turned aside 21 of 26 shots, not the kind of work he produced in so many high-stakes games a year ago.
"I think there are a couple he's going to be thinking about ... that he's going to want back," coach Dan Bylsma said. "And [that he] knows he can be a lot better in those situations to give us a chance."
This is the third time in the past four series the Penguins have lost Game 1; they rallied to win the series the previous two times, against Washington and Detroit. Game 2 will be at 7:08 p.m. Friday at Mellon Arena.
The Penguins can only hope to duplicate the start they got when Malkin put them up, 1-0, with a power-play goal at 3:03 of the opening period.
Trouble is, that was the last shot they got until until 19:28, when Malkin raised their total for the period to four. Between the time Malkin scored his goal and when he recorded that last-minute shot, the Senators piled up 11 shots and two goals.
Peter Regin pulled Ottawa even at 8:45 by picking a Jason Spezza rebound out of Sergei Gonchar's skates and throwing it past Fleury, and Chris Neil put the Senators in front to stay by beating Fleury from below the right dot at 14:08.
Chris Kelly made it 3-1 during a power play 80 seconds into the second, when a harmless-looking Chris Campoli shoot-in caromed not around the boards but to the front of the net. Unfortunately for Fleury, he had gone behind the net to cut off the puck, which meant Kelly had an open net to throw the puck into.
Malkin restored the Penguins' equilibrium with another man-advantage goal at 10:22 as he threw a shot past Elliott from the right dot.
The Senators countered quickly, however, as Erik Karlsson corralled a Mike Fisher rebound in the right circle and tossed it in on a power play at 13:14.
"We would get one back, then couldn't make it stick," Adams said.
Adams, who does not have a goal in his past 111 regular-season games, got the Penguins back to within one when he flipped a backhander behind Elliott from the left dot at 5:16 of the third, but Jarkko Ruutu converted a cross-ice feed from Neil at 9:40 to put the Senators in front, 5-3.
The Penguins gave the crowd of of 17,132 a final thrill when Alex Goligoski took a blind, backhand feed from Crosby and lashed a slap shot past Elliott from the left dot at 17:36, but they couldn't generate the goal that would have forced overtime.
Never really came close to it, because Ottawa kept the puck in the Penguins' end for an extended period, then did a good job of protecting Elliott as time wound down.
Which means that the Penguins had plenty to think about on their way home after the game, even though it would be unwise to dwell on the details.
"That's the most important thing," Fleury said.
"To leave it behind, move on."
First Published April 15, 2010 12:00 am