Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the Ottawa Senators scores a goal against Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 13, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH — The Ottawa Senators put up a road block in the march of the Penguins on Saturday.
Not bad for starters, not bad at all.
The Senators opened the Eastern Conference final according to coach Guy Boucher’s plan by frustrating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins — including holding them to 0-for-5 on the power play — as Bobby Ryan scored the winner to give Ottawa 2-1 overtime victory at the PPG Paints Arena.
While Craig Anderson was solid for the Senators and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored in regulation, Pittsburgh superstar Evgeni Malkin scored late in the third period to force the Senators to work overtime. Ryan, in alone, had a two-point night and top-shelf on the backhand to beat Marc-Andre Fleury at 4:59 of overtime.
The Senators moved their record to 6-1 in overtime in these playoffs and have taken a 1-0 series lead over the Penguins by shutting down the like of Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel completely.
“It felt great obviously,” said a thrilled Ryan. “I got fortunate that it found the back of the net.”
Malkin tied it up at 14:25 of the third period when he tipped a Chris Kunitz shot by Anderson to break his shutout bid and get the Penguins on the board. Up until then the Senators had done a good job pushing the pace on Pittsburgh but the club had a difficult time withstanding a full-court press by the Penguins.
“I liked a lot of things. It’s just one game. We won’t get too excited,” said coach Guy Boucher. “We had the approach we had all year.”
The Senators weren’t worried about giving up the lead.
“We were very calm. We’ve got a group where there’s not a lot said. What is said is received and we go out and do our job,” said defenceman Dion Phaneuf. “I thought we did a really good job of coming in, playing our system and when you look a the individual effort by Bobby, Andy was incredible and we did it by committee.”
After two periods, the Senators were clinging to a 1-0 lead and Anderson was making the stops the club needed to keep the Penguins at bay.
The Senators felt they had pulled out to a 2-0 lead with 7:12 to go in the second when Fred Claesson tried a wraparound that Fleury stopped. Alex Burrows was there to follow through to put the puck in the net when Fleury looked like he had it covered bu the NHL’s situation room ruled the whistle had been blown.
“The referee informed the situation room that he had deemed the play dead when Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury covered the puck with his glove,” the league said in an explanation from the situation room.
That didn’t sit well with the Senators or their faithful.
Through the first 30 minutes, the Senators had allowed the Pittsburgh power play five glorious opportunities and the Penguin couldn’t do anything with it. No, the Senators can’t tempt this kind of fate very often but Anderson made a huge glove stop on a deflection by Patric Hornqvist on the fifth power play of the night.
Starting on the road for the first time in these playoffs, the Senators didn’t look their best but were ahead 1-0 on the scoreboard despite a parade to the penalty box that allowed the powerful Penguins to have four power plays. The Senators were only outshot 8-6 and they led where it counted.
Yes, the Senators were being outplayed but it was Pageau, who else, that opened the scoring for Ottawa with his eighth of the post-season. He took a beautiful no-look backhand pass from Ryan in the slot and Pageau fired it by Fleury on the glove side at 14:32 to silence the crowd.
If the first 10 minutes are pivotal, the Senators were able to survive it. They had to kill off a two-man advantage for a span of 45 seconds awarded to the Penguins. Hornqvist hit post to start the power play but from there the Senators did a good job limiting Pittsburgh’s chances on Anderson.
“We know they have a good power play,” said Pageau. “Obviously, our best penalty killer was (Anderson).”
He had gotten help earlier when Ron Hainsey’s shot from the point was tipped by Jake Guentzel off the crossbar.
“I thought we played a really good game,” said winger Mark Stone. “We clogged the neutral zone, we clogged the ice and made them come through us.
“Sometimes when you’re turning the puck over at the blueline that’s when they feast because they’ve got so many skilled players over there. When you’re turning pucks over, they’re going to come back and they’re going to get chances. I thought we did a pretty solid job in containting that.”
The Senators and Penguins will play Game 2 here Monday at 8 p.m.