#57 Ottawa Senatorsvs.#58 Pittsburgh Penguins
Written by Valdis Pans
Ottawa Senators (54-33-7-4) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (60-25-8-5)
When: 3:00 PM ET, Sunday, May 21, 2017
Where: PPG PAINTS Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Lines: Ottawa +170 / Pittsburgh -200
With the series currently standing even at 2-2, the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators is still everything but decided ahead of Game 5 in Pennsylvania…
The intensity and vigilance, which helped them to keep the Pittsburgh Penguins to just three goals in the first three outings of the Eastern Conference Final, just wasn’t there for the Ottawa Senators (54-33-11) in Game 4 at Canadian Tire Centre on Friday. The hosts failed to contain the visibly desperate defending Stanley Cup champions, who stomped their authority on the game with three initial goals until the 11:30 minute mark in the second period. Clarke MacArthur (7 goals, 13 points in 27 post-season contests) cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-1 with 1:38 minutes left in the second period, while Tom Pyatt (4 goals, 6 points in 37 playoff outings) was credited with Ottawa’s second snipe after a shot by Erik Karlsson (6 goals, 34 points in 45 post-season fixtures) deflected off his skate into the Penguins’ net with just five minutes remaining in regulation.
Despite finishing the game on power play, going 6-on-4 at Pittsburgh for the last 35 seconds of the contest, the Sens were unable to earn their eighth overtime of the current playoffs. The team finished the matchup 0-for-4 on the man-advantage, going scoreless on power play now for nine games in a row (0-for-25), dating back to Game 2 of the Second Round against the New York Rangers. Goalie Craig Anderson (22-20 in his post-season career with a 2.31 GAA and a .929 save percentage) made 32 saves, taking his 2017 playoff tally to 10-6 with a 2.25 GAA, a .922 save percentage and one shutout. The Senators, meanwhile, are scoring the 7th highest amount of goals per fixture during the ongoing post-season (2.69), conceding the 6th lowest quantity defensively (2.44). They are 3rd worst in power play with an 11.5% success rate (6-for-52) and rank 6th in penalty kill with 86.5% proficiency (45-for-52).
Despite playing most of the contest with just five defensemen after Chad Ruhwedel became another casualty for the Pittsburgh Penguins (60-25-13) in the first period, the reigning Stanley Cup champions finally put up a decent fight against the Ottawa Senators, winning Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final with a final score of 3-2. Matching the number of goals scored in all three previous outings against the Sens, the Penguins took a 3-0 lead and allowed just two snipes from the hosts further in the game, surviving a 6-on-4 onslaught for the dying 35 seconds of the third period. Olli Maatta opened the scoring with his first ever strike in 47 career post-season outings on an odd-man rush with 46 seconds remaining in the first frame.
Sidney Crosby (55 goals, 54 points in 138 playoff matchups) registered an assist on Maatta’s goal, scoring himself on power play in the second period. Brian Dumoulin (3 markers, 11 points in 45 post-season appearances) was awarded the third Pittsburgh’s goal after his shot deflected off Ottawa defensemen Dion Phaneuf’s skate into the Senators’ net 11:30 minutes into the middle session. Evgeni Malkin (54 goals, 149 points in his playoff career), meanwhile, played his 140th post-season contest, tying Jaromir Jagr for most in Penguins history. After coming on in Game 3 in relief to Marc-Andre Fleury, who allowed four goals on nine shots in the previous fixture, goalie Matt Murray made his first start in more than six weeks, stopping a handful of crucial shots during a 24-save performance. He is 16-6 in his playoff career with a 2.05 GAA and a .924 save percentage, going 1-0 so far this post-season with a 1.68 GAA and a .935 save percentage. The Penguins, meanwhile, are 2nd in most goals netted per game during the current playoffs (2.94), 7th in least goals allowed on average (2.50), 5th in power play with a 20.4% turnaround (10-for-49) and 10th in penalty kill with 84.8% expertise (39-for-46).
If during Game 3 the Senators were playing more like the Penguins usually do, then Game 4 definitely turned things around, with Pittsburgh finally finding its offensive feet. It has happened right on time as well, with the action switching to PPG Paints Arena, where Ottawa has managed just three wins in the last 16 attempts…
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Valdis got his first ever article published when he was 13, and has rarely stopped. He has worked for FHM, MTV Baltics and has done loads of freelance (from columns for Cosmopolitan magazine to helping with organization of Macy Gray’s shows in the Northern Europe). Speaks five different languages, loves pizza, American Horror Story and pipe organ music, and knows European soccer better than dates of his family members’ birthdays. Is an avid fan of ice-hockey too. He is a Latvian after all...