Friday, April 11, 2008

2007-08 Playoffs: Round 1, Game 2

2007 Eastern Conference quarterfinal
GAME 2 RESULT: Pittsburgh 5, Ottawa 3
(Penguins lead series 2-0).
Game recap:
Ottawa scorers: Donovan, Stillman, Bass.
Pittsburgh scorers: Gonchar, Sykora (2), Malone (2).
3 Stars: Sykora (Pit), Malkin (Pit), Malone (Pit).
Honourable mention: Gerber (Ott).
Power play: Pittsburgh 3-6, Ottawa 1-2.
Shots on goal: Pittsburgh 54, Ottawa 30.
Attendance: 17,132 (17,132 cap.)

PRESIDENT’S 2 CENTS: And the Oscar goes to…Jarkko Ruutu, for making sure to embellish Marty Lapointe’s high stick in order to draw a power play. Ruutu, who figured in the only regular-season Penguins win by scoring the shootout winner in November, played a big part again, ensuring a man advantage would help snuff out a Sens chance to steal Game 2—which it did. In their most complete effort since the 8-2 drubbing of the Leafs, it was a character loss and a display of consistency which in this case went hand-in-hand with determination to allow the comeback to happen. Fifty-four shots aside, the Sens finished their checks, scurried to loose pucks, and drove the net. Great example? Didn’t end up with a goal, but a Chris Phillips check on Crosby led to a rush up ice, which saw Mike Commodore (who’s stepped it up in the playoffs) and Dean McAmmond charge hard to the end boards, hit and force the issue. Another play saw Jason Spezza (!) scurry back to cover for Phillips on the blueline when the Big Rig was caught a little too far up ice. McAmmond was also fantastic with Antoine Vermette, who also had a strong night, notably so in denying Petr Sykora a one-time attempt on a first-period penalty kill. Attention to detail was solid overall… Solid is the best word to describe Chris Neil’s effort on the night. Very obviously early on, he was intensely trying to neutralize the Gary Roberts factor by getting in the Sen-killer’s face. Neiler also drove the net hard, had a wraparound scoring chance, and fed Shean Donovan to start the comeback …

… Martin Gerber was fantastic in the Senator net for the second straight night, and even better this time around, turning away 48 of 53 shots. Ironic, though, how his best save of the night—off the Brooks Orpik breakaway out of the penalty box—was followed right up by Petr Sykora’s second of the game to make it 3-0. Kind of exemplifies the Senators’ season – good, but only momentarily so, as bad always seems to creep in … Creeping in was Evgeni Malkin for one of his many shots (see ‘Interesting Stat Line’ below) for a backhand chance in the second, but Darth was there with the glove. With every save, it appears moreso that the Razor will be the one getting cut, not cutting. We’ll give Gerber a mulligan on the winning goal (perhaps his lateral quickness could have been better) …

… The much-maligned and inconsistent Wade Redden was on tonight, after a subpar Game 1. In subtle fashion, he was strong in his defensive coverage. An early Ruutu-Evgeni Malkin two-on-one wide-open chance was broken up calmly by Wade. On another occasion, he thwarted gunner Jordan Staal on the short side from causing further damage to a team already down 1-0. Another play saw him hold off a Penguin attacker, and still manage to pass the puck safely over to Lapointe, who could clear the zone from behind the net. Officially credited with two hits and a blocked shot, he was better tonight …

FUNNY STUFF: Shotblocking machine Anton Volchenkov came out to play again, registering a game-high four blocked pucks (shared with Antoine Vermette and Ryan Whitney), a mere 48 hours after taking one in the melon. Speaking of which, the Team 1200 morning show’s Buzz had it about right, saying poor A-Train looked like Chucky from Child’s Play fame on the cover of the Ottawa Citizen’s sports spread. Good thing he sported a full cage to hide the 14-stich gash. On the subject, the Line of the Night goes to Dean Brown, and for the first time it’s a pregame line. “I’m not entirely sure he has a nervous system,” said Dean about Anton’s ability to keep getting in the way of pucks. “He might be a cyborg, an alien,” he went on … Don Cherry Suit Rating: The black-on-black theme with the double-breasted jacket and gold buttons was slick, but minus one point for the tie which was Penguin yellow. Six out of 10 … Not sure what was worse: a shot of Mario Lemieux’s awful moustache (which he can’t pull off at all), or former teammate Jaromir Jagr’s as-awful vertical strip of hair both below AND above his lips, seen on a highlight from the Ranger game … Speaking of facial hair, the injured Mike Fisher’s playoff beard looked better than most of his teammates’ ones ... Marian Hossa twice found himself on Martin Gerber’s back doorstep: both times, Darth reached behind, and on one of the plays, tripped up the former Senator to save a goal … Could have sworn that redhead taking in the game in the front row was actress Jane Seymour. However, not even the medicine woman could prescribe some anti-hex medication for the Sens … Funny how on the tying goal, a certain camera angle captured the celebrating Senators—who all happened to be Canadian—in the foreground, with ads on the boards behind them belonging to CBC and CIBC. How patriotic. Good to see the bank taking an ‘interest’ in advertising south of the border (one pun per 2 Cents) …

… Interesting Stat Line of the Night: Evgeni Malkin, who led the Pens with eight shots, all stopped by Darth Gerber. Malkin also had four attempts blocked and four missed shots. With scary numbers like that, it’s only a matter of time before he lights the lamp again. For good measure, the big Russian had five hits too … Hometown Stat of the Night: Game 2 saw the first playoff goal scored in Mellon Arena by a native Pittsburghian, when Ryan Malone potted the winner … Another solid night for grinders Ruutu, Brooks Orpik, and Malone … Last But Not Least: the Penguin power play officially killed the Sens’ chances of returning with a split at the end. Nevertheless, it was a blessing in disguise, as the penalties signalled the much-needed (other) changing of the guard in the Capital, to a more blue-collar style. It was the harbinger of the comeback, and the style of the goals scored paid homage to it.


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