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Murray stands tall; Pens win Game 4, 3-2

The Sens were unable to pull off the ‘magic moment’ tonight; head back to Pittsburgh with the series tied at 2-2.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve been spoiled with the Sens late-game heroics: overtime winners, tying goals with less than 2 minutes left, game-winners in the third period – you name it. But hockey is a sport of bounces, and sometimes they don’t go your way. Unfortunately for the Senators, tonight was one of those nights.

The game started off well enough – eerily similar to Wednesday’s Game 3 – and perhaps we should have known that the team not cashing in on Pens starter Matt Murray was a sign. After 4-5 scoring chances in the first 10 minutes, the game turned controversial in the latter half of the period. First, Mike Hoffman took a slashing penalty on Phil Kessel despite Ian Cole not getting called for the high stick on Kyle Turris earlier in the shift. The Pens didn’t score on the powerplay. However, with a minute left to play, Erik Karlsson jumped into the rush and took 3 good slashes from Chris Kunitz – elevated to play with Crosby tonight – and got stuck in deep. Olli Maatta led the charge the other way and scored a bad angle goal on Craig Anderson with Zack Smith defending in Karlsson’s spot to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.

What usually happens in hockey when the referees miss a call? The players take it into their own hands. Thus, the shift after, Bobby Ryan catches Chad Ruhwedel with his head down with an unfortunate hit, and Ian Cole jumps in to rescue his defender. Ruhwedel didn’t finish the game, and Cole ended up with the only penalty – a two-minute minor that extended into the second.

Let’s get this out of the way now: the Senators PP was a tire-fire tonight, and if you believe in ‘momentum’, it’s easy to point to the Sens poor PP play as a factor that not only sapped the energy out of the Senators, but gave life to the Penguins as the team went 0/4 on the night and still haven’t scored since Game 1 vs. the Rangers. As the post-whistle extracurriculars continued, Jean-Gabriel Pageau put Sidney Crosby into a headlock – a no-no generally but definitely against a player of Crosby’s caliber and injury history – leading to a two-minute minor. Crosby ended up being the beneficiary, grabbing his second point of the night and third of the series off a jam play on the right-side of the net after Jake Guentzel found him alone. It’s hard to blame a goaltender on a powerplay marker, but it was the second questionable goal against Anderson on the night, as he made the initial stop by took his left pad off the post for some reason on Crosby’s second attempt.

I thought that second goal woke the Sens up a bit, with Karlsson and Stone rushing in and looking active. Unfortunately, a too many men penalty against the Pens cost them (!) by putting them on the powerplay (!!), where the team looked dismal. I thought we’d get another Karlsson – Brassard magic moment later in the game after Karlsson barked at Turris on the bench after the forward misplayed the puck back to Karlsson several times, but it never came to fruition. The Pens took advantage soon after the PK, with Brian Dumoulin getting his first of the playoffs after his centering pass to Malkin went off the skate of Dion Phaneuf and past Craig Anderson.

Although you could say that Pens controlled most of the second period – an impressive feat given they only had five defencemen – the Senators wounds were self-inflicted. The miscommunication appeared to pile up, and there was less support in the transition from defensive zone to offensive zone, leading to a period of ~10 minutes without an Ottawa shot on goal. As we know: bounces can change anything, and the Sens got some life with less than 2 minute left in the period. The goal came on an eventful shift for MacArthur – Brassard – Ryan. On the defensive zone draw, Brassard loses to Crosby but ends up tweaking something in his knee as he skated to the bench bowled over and went straight to the room.

As the play continued, Bobby Ryan blocked a shot with his upper body but ended up getting the puck on the right wing boards. Ron Hainsey fell, giving Bobby an advantage heading into the zone, but he mishandled the puck, leading to Pens defenders swarming into the zone. When all looked like it was lost, he spun and fired a no-look pass to the slot, where Clarke MacArthur deflected the puck past Matt Murray to break his shutout and get the Sens on the board heading into the third.

Much like the first five minutes of the first, the Sens tested Murray quickly in the third period. The netminder was calm as he stopped multiple attempts from Stone, MacArthur, and Smith to keep the Sens at bay. The rest of the period was mainly played in the neutral zone, with the Sens looking to generate offensive zone pressure but the Pens doing a good job of playing The Ottawa Way and clearing the puck. It wasn’t until there was 5 minutes left when the Senators won their battle, with Erik Karlsson managing to get the puck through from the point, off Hoffman’s stick in the slot and Tom Pyatt’s skate in front of the net to bring the game to within 1.

The Pens forecheck did a good job limiting Ottawa from getting Anderson pulled until the one minute mark, and I almost thought that there was going to be another comeback when the Pens took a bench minor with 34 seconds left. However, despite the best efforts of Turris, Karlsson, and Hoffman, the Sens were unable to get the puck past Matt Murray.

Notable Performances

  • The Pens outshot the Sens by a margin of 35 - 24 for the night; although the 5-on-5 shot attempts were in the Sens favour, 43 - 39.
  • The pair of Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley really stepped up for the Pens, with the two being among the Pens leaders in terms of shot attempts. The entire top-four split Ruhwedel’s minutes, and if he’s out long-term, we can expect to see Mark Streit back in for Game 5.
  • After going down two, the Sens effectively rolled 8 forwards. Dzingel - Wingels - Stalberg were all under 8 minutes, and Pyatt was ~13. Meanwhile, Turris, Smith, Hoffman, MacArthur, and Stone were all around 18-20 minutes.
  • Derick Brassard came back to start the third, but didn’t take any faceoffs; Zack Smith was on his line and took them instead. He looked to be skating fine if it really is a knee injury, but we’ll wait for Boucher to confirm.
  • Just like Game 2 (which I also recapped, I’m sorry), the Sens main problem looked like a combination of: a lack of puck support in the offensive zone and some poor puck management as a result. Unlike Game 2, the Sens still won the shot battle (a good sign), but will definitely like to get more pucks on Matt Murray in Game 5.
  • Funnily enough: the Senators actually did quite well in most metrics when you compare Game 3 to Game 4. More scoring chances, of better quality generally means more goals, but in single games, anything can happen. Of course, the large leads that both teams have greatly impact the CF% totals, but if we were to take two lessons out of the table below, it would be the following: 1) generate more shots on goal, 2) you’re playing quite well and the bounces don’t always go your way; reset for Game 5 (and maybe work on the powerplay)

Sens - Pens: Game 3 vs. Game 4

Metrics OTT - Game 3 OTT - Game 4 PIT - Game 3 PIT - Game 4
Metrics OTT - Game 3 OTT - Game 4 PIT - Game 3 PIT - Game 4
Shots on goal 29 24 26 35
CF% (via NST) 44.83% 52.44% 55.17% 49.21%
xGF (via Corsica) 1.25 2.49 1.26 1.61
Scoring Chances (via NST) 18 26 15 22
High Danger Scoring Chances (via NST) 5 13 3 9
Natural Stat Trick & Corsica Hockey

Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick

Heat Map via Natural Stat Trick

Thanks for reading!