PENGUINS 4, SENATORS 3
By WILL GRAVES
PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby had his second career playoff hat trick and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 4-3 on Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Brenden Morrow added his first playoff goal in more than five years, Tomas Vokoun made 19 saves and the Penguins rode their superstar captain to their fourth straight victory.
Crosby beat Craig Anderson three times in the game’s first 22 minutes, sending the goalie to the bench after stopping 18 of 21 shots.
Kyle Turris, Colin Greening and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for the Senators, but couldn’t stop Ottawa from falling into a deep hole against the Eastern Conference’s top seed. The Senators have never won a playoff series after dropping the first two games.
Game 3 is Sunday in Ottawa.
The Senators insisted they didn’t have to play a perfect game to hang with the Penguins, pointing to the way they controlled play at even strength for long stretches in a 4-1 loss in the series opener Tuesday night. Ottawa insisted if it could stay out of the penalty box and convert when it had the man advantage, it would be right there.
Despite doing both in the first period – killing two penalties and converting on Turris’ bank shot on the power play – the Senators still trailed 2-1.
More to the point, they trailed Crosby 2-1.
The Pittsburgh captain became the fifth player in franchise history to record 100 playoff points in spectacular fashion. He collected an innocent-looking pass at the Pittsburgh blue line then darted up the left side. He split two Senators – including Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson – then ripped a shot under Anderson’s pad to give the Penguins the lead 3:16 into the game.
Turris tied it with the first soft goal Vokoun has allowed since taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5 of the first-round series against the Islanders. Turris collected the puck near the left post and shot it off Vokoun and into the net.
Crosby one-upped Turris a few minutes later, zipping down the left side once again. This time, Crosby appeared to be looking to pass, eyeing linemate Pascal Dupuis as they raced in on Anderson. Only Crosby didn’t pass. At the last second and without even peeking directly at Anderson, he flipped a wrist shot near the goal line that smacked off the goalie’s pad and into the net.
Karlsson, who is still working his way back from an Achilles injury sustained when Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke inadvertently slashed Karlsson with his skate, drew a hooking penalty on Cooke early in the second.
Crosby didn’t need any fancy stickwork to record his first postseason hat trick since 2009. Instead he powered a slap shot over Anderson’s glove from the left circle to push Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-1. Anderson skated to the bench in favor of backup Robin Lehner.
Greening responded almost immediately after the switch, beating Vokoun with a sizzling wrist shot 40 seconds later to get the Senators within one. Morrow restored the two-goal lead by redirecting Paul Martin’s blast from just outside the crease. It was Morrow’s first postseason score since May 14, 2008, while playing for the Dallas Stars.
The score was one of the few mistakes made by Lehner in his playoff debut. The 21-year-old was stellar otherwise in relief of Anderson. He made 20 saves in all, including series of point-blank stops. He robbed Jarome Iginla on a 2-on-1 shortly after entering and used perfectly a timed slide to stone Evgeni Malkin on the doorstep in the third period.
Lehner’s play steadied the Senators, and Ottawa kept coming, pulling within a goal 2:01 into the third period when Pageau tapped the puck across the line following a mad scramble in front.
The Senators, however, couldn’t tie it as Pittsburgh remained unbeaten since Vokoun replaced Fleury and moved within two wins of making it to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 when the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup.
NOTES: Crosby reached the 100-point plateau in his 75th playoff game, the fifth-fastest player to reach the mark in NHL history ... Pittsburgh went 1 for 6 on the power play and is 10 of 30 (33 percent) in the postseason. The Senators went 1 for 2 after going 0 for 6 in the opener ... Ottawa D Eric Gryba didn’t play. He was injured in a collision with Penguins D Brooks Orpik in the second period of Game 1