I figured that I might as well post my post-game thoughts in the FanPosts section, since I will be posting purely as a fan of the team. The official recap can be found on the front page (probably pretty soon).
I attended game four, 'Andy Sutton: Expert' sign, Sens scarf, and jersey in tow, with high expectations. I left disappointed and frustrated, though, and for many reasons. Not just because of poor refereeing: There was plenty of that, and although it affected both teams, it seemed to punish the Senators more. Not just because of bad goaltending: Brian Elliott was bad, Pascal Leclaire was only slightly less than bad, but both faced some seriously good scoring chances. And not just because of bad luck: Bounces and broken glass worked against Ottawa tonight. Really, all of those things combined to make me feeling pretty frustrated. It seemed like whenever the Senators started getting some measure of momentum, something would happen to shut them down. Sometimes in their control, sometimes out of their control, but always aggravating. You'd expect a 7-4 loss to be an emotional rollercoaster, and it certainly was.
First off, the start of the game: The Senators were incredible. The first ten minutes was all Ottawa, the third and fourth line generated some chances, and the Sens got the first three shots of the game. Andy Sutton drilled Max Talbot, and the Sens forecheck was sick, Elliott was making saves--including a sick glove-save on Crosby. Then a scrum in front of the net, and somehow, Chris Kelly is the only player picked out of a crowd to be assessed a non-coincidental penalty. Ottawa's momentum is slowed, Pittsburgh gets a bunch of powerplay shots--but Elliott keeps them off the scoreboard. Mike Fisher even gets a great shorthanded scoring chances, but his stick is slashed out of his hands before he gets a shot away--no penalty, though. Instead, Anton Volchenkov gets nabbed for hooking (certainly an infraction, but given the non-call on the Fisher play, one that could [and likely should] have been left uncalled). On the powerplay, Evgeni Malkin capitalizes. 1-0 Pittsburgh.
Being down one after twenty minutes isn't bad at all--especially when you're outshot 14-6. Ottawa comes back, gets some offensive pressure, but then Jason Spezza tries a risky play on the offensive zone blueline, doesn't work his ass off to make up for it, and it costs the team: Crosby scores, it's 2-0. Seconds later, a gaffe behind the net by Elliott, no defensive zone coverage, and it's 3-0. Then it's 4-0, after a weak goal by Elliott. It sure looks like it's all Pittsburgh now; Elliott is replaced with Leclaire, and the Sens have to be concerned.
They bounce back. Chris Neil and the third line, along with a very poised Chris Campoli, grind a goal past Marc-Andre Fleury to get Ottawa back into the game; it's still 3-1, but the Sens are rolling now. But Neil knocks Kris Letang down in the midst of his celebration, and gets a very chintzy roughing penalty: Lightest touch, and Letang is right down. Did Neil need to do the push? No. It was stupid. But a penalty? That's a weak call. The Senators have to take the foot of the pedal again, and focus on defence.
The Sens kill it, though, thanks to some solid play by Leclaire. And they keep going, and Alfredsson scores--a sweet give-and-go with Erik Karlsson. The Senators are really rolling now. It's 4-2, and they're on the powerplay. They've won the faceoff, they've got possession, there's traffic in front and Alfredsson's about to fire another rocket on goal... when the play is blown dead. After a big hit in the corner, the glass popped out, and the Sens are forced to start all over.
They don't. Crosby gets a short-handed break that's stopped, but then Talbot finishes his own chance on a two-on-one to make it 5-2. We're low again. But we're still on the powerplay. Then it becomes a two-man advantage. And then some great puck movement ends when Spezza slings the puck across to Matt Cullen, who finishes it off to get Ottawa back within two goals. We're back in this! Ottawa's even still got possession of the puck! They're passing it around, it squeaks towards the line, Matt Carkner misses it but Campoli's right there, and he holds it in--or at least it looks like he does. The play's blown down as offside; sure didn't look like it was offside.
And then we're not in control anymore. Crosby leads a rush down the ice, and both Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov follow him behind the net--leaving Chris Kunitz wide open in front. Naturally, the puck gets to him, he gets it past Leclaire, and it's 6-3 now. I am surprised the paramedics aren't busier; this is nuts. And it's still the second period.
Late in the second, Ottawa plays about 10 seconds with too many men on the ice. They rushed up the ice, they got a great scoring chance, they even did a line change--all with six skaters, plus the goalie. Deflating bench minor, but they're usually rare, and the Sens kill it off. And almost right after killing it off, they get called with another one--this one much less blatant, and certainly arguable: One Senator is jumping off the ice while the other plays the puck. Which is made even more deplorable a minute later, when the same situation happens at the Pittsburgh bench, and there is no call. Cory Clouston highlighted the inconsistency as the main problem with the refereeing, and that's just it.
But Ottawa did get some powerplays. And even another 5-on-3, on which they capitalized: Spezza freezes Fleury when he fakes the shot, and buries it afterwards. It's 6-4 right now, time is running out, but we've still got the better part of the third period to get back into it.
Then a hooking penalty to Sutton. Not a blatant hook, but sure, a hook, if you want. While Pittsburgh's on the powerplay, the puck is bouncing in their own zone, and it's cleared directly over the glass and into the crowd by a Penguins defender. A stupid penalty, maybe, but it remains a penalty, and should have set Ottawa up for some four-on-four pay; instead, the refs convene and decide it was tipped (it wasn't) and Pittsburgh continues on the powerplay. And an unlucky bounce gives Jordan Staal a powerplay goal, and the game ends 7-4.
It was insane. Up, down, up, down... craziness. Obviously, the mistakes that the Senators made were frustrating: In some instances, they controlled their own fate, and their own mistakes cost them. In a lot of others, though, circumstances out of the team's control cost them, in a lot of ways cost them more than their own mistakes. It was a sad way to lose the game.
However, the Penguins need four wins to take the series. Ottawa's got another game on Thursday. That will literally be a must win; will literally be the biggest game of the season. So we'll see how that one goes.