The defending Stanley Cup Champions kicked off the 2010 Playoffs where they left off last year — shot from a cannon. They came out flying, took advantage of the fact that they were facing a rookie goaltender and found themselves up 1-0 at the 3:03 mark of period one. Unfortunately, that is where the similarities to last year ended and the Penguins quickly found themselves duplicating many of the mistakes that have become far to common in their game as of late.
“We didn’t play well, we didn’t manage the puck and we didn’t do what the Penguins do to win games,” said a disheartened Kris Letang following tonight’s 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators. “The bottom line is that our game was just not right, we were not 100% focused on it and we did a lot of mistakes in the neutral zone and the offensive zone — bad managing the puck and it cost us.”
Sometimes when there is an obvious lack of focus or mistakes are being made, a player can look to his teammates to lift he and the team out of it. That wasn’t the case this evening as most facets of the Penguins system performed below their usual level. Marc Andre Fleury was serving up big rebounds, his defensemen and back checking forwards couldn’t bail him out and the pucks ended up in the net. One even took a horrible bounce off of the back dasher that was reminiscent of goals of playoffs past in Detroit over the past two years.
Senators defenseman Chris Campoli dumped a puck into the Penguins zone during a power play and Fleury went out to play it, had it deflect away from him and Chris Kelly banged it into a nearly empty cage 3-1.
The Penguins did have chances to claw back into the game, but it seemed that each time they would cut the Ottawa lead, they would give it right back. The best example of that was during the second period when Evgeni Malkin scored his second goal of the night to pull the Birds within one. Rather than capitalizing on the momentum generated, Chris Kunitz took an unnecessary charging penalty and Erik Karlsson pushed the Senators back ahead by two.
Sidney Crosby managed to pick up three assists, but was held without a shot through two periods by Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips and Chris Kelly. That match-up will be key moving forward and will likely play a big hand in who wins this series.
It is worth noting that even with all of the mistakes that they made the Penguins were right in the game as time expired. If they can clean up their game a bit and remain focused on attacking and good defense they will probably have enough to get by the Senators. If not? This could be a short series…