Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Fleury or Murray? Penguins coach keeps quiet on goalie situation

They'll recognize that, and they're going to have a push.

Adjusting, finally, the Senators started Wednesday "like gorillas coming out of the cage", to paraphrase goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics after Canada's ambush of Russian Federation.

"It's not going to go 16 games in a row perfectly", said Fleury, smiling plenty during his media availability post-practice.

No practice once again for injured players Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust, and Justin Schultz.

Before the Penguins had time to blink, they found themselves trailing. The Senators are averaging 2.5 goals per game and are scoring on 17 percent of their power play opportunities.

Mike Hoffman, deciding that shooting from in front of the net is such a cliché, banked a shot off of the pads of Penguins netminder Marc-André Fleury into the back of the Pittsburgh net. While his initial shot was stopped, the rebound bounced off Penguins defenseman Ian Cole and into the net. His partner Chad Ruhwedel was up the boards by the blueline. "Just keep going, and the puck will go in". When he plays poorly, Pittsburgh typically falters.

Zack Smith sent a dump-in deep into the Pittsburgh zone and actually got to the puck first.

Suddenly, the score was 4-0. Brian Dumoulin and Ron Hainsey were embarrassingly slow on the backcheck.

This is a tight-knit group, and plays like one.

He says he couldn't hear himself think amid the white-towel waving sold-out building when the Senators exploded for four first period goals. The Senators did edge out the Penguins in shots, but not by a significant margin. The Sens have simply sucked the life out of their attack with an intensely defensive approach mirroring the one which helped them capture second spot in the Atlantic division during the regular season before topping the Bruins and Rangers in the opening two rounds.

"The chances have been there, regardless of who gets them", said an upbeat Crosby in a cramped dressing room on the university campus.

If things get too heated, he's the one who steps in and calms them down. Malkin's temper had flared up in Game 2 with teammate Phil Kessel. "He plays like 30 minutes a night - he's their [Erik] Karlsson". "It's good when you're getting those looks". But the Ottawa Senators capitalized on their early chances and kept their feet moving.

"We know we belong here", said defenceman Marc Methot, who has been a beast in this series - as has Dion Phaneuf. At least, for the time being. A fan chanted "1-3-1, 1-3-1", answering back to criticism that the Senators defensive structure made them a boring team. It's like watching the 90s Devils. "We do. We clog the neutral zone".

It works, yes! It works quite well.

One of the best lines of the night came from the seats with the Senators leading 5-0. Of course they want to be the team that wins over the NHL's hearts as they surge to a potential Stanley Cup berth.

Western Canada has its four teams from Winnipeg to Vancouver while the eastern fixation with the Original Six Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens results in the total eclipse of the Sens. Yet, there is every chance the country is watching this Eastern Conference final against the Pittsburgh Penguins now that the National Hockey League playoffs boil down to one game per night, east and west alternating a prime time TV slot. But they don't have much to speak of on defense. And they are going to need it with a banged up roster. Tom Kuhnhackl is questionable to return to the lineup after missing the last week of action. All three missed Game 3 and their status for tonight's contest remains uncertain. Home underdogs this late in the Stanley Cup Playoffs should be an absolute bet.

The Crosby goal ended another drought as well; prior to this tally, it had been seven games since Crosby had scored. The line being at -110 softens the blow of betting on them.

There may not be a more well-liked person inside the entire Penguins organization. If the Penguins want to win the Eastern Conference Final, it will have to be on the back of the stars.

The Senators are only two wins away from their first trip to the Cup final in 10 years.

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