After watching the Penguins/Senators game tonight one thing was evident. The Penguins had learned what it would take to compete at the level of the Senators, but it wasn't enough as they fell short once again. The Penguins dominated the play for most of the game, and deserved a better fate than a 2-1 loss at home, but that is what played out. This loss is a backbreaker for this team, but they fought hard till the very end and didn't pack it in.
Sidney Crosby had another solid outing despite not showing up on the scoreboard, but his face-off ability MUST get better if he is expected to win games for them in the final minutes. He had three crucial face-offs in the Ottawa end with under 50 seconds to play and lost each of them cleanly, costing the Pens any chance at generating a solid scoring opportunity with the extra man. You can say I'm being
picky with the criticism of Crosby, but that truly is the only weakness in his game.
Evgeni Malkin looked exhausted down the stretch and the playoffs are looking to be taking their toll on him phsyically and mentally because he has all but dissapeared in this series, but I will also give the Sens defense some credit for that as they have smothered him everytime he has touched the puck.
Marc-Andre Fleury played another solid game in net for the Pens but was matched save for save (and then some as indicated by the score) by Ray Emery. Anyone who thought Fleury didn't have what it takes to be a #1 type playoff goaltender has been all but proven wrong in my eyes. The first goal of the night by the Senators was a fluke goal, but sometimes you have to be lucky to be good.
The tandem of Joe Melichar and Rob Scuderi looked poor all night long and have looked that way for most of the series, although all the Penguins defensemen except for Brooks Orpik found themselves backing up into Fleury all game long since none of them have the guts to step up at the blueline and make a play. This will be an area of major importance in the offseason if this team hopes to go deep into the playoffs. Gonchar and Whitney must play better defensively because Eaton and Orpik can't always be covering for their partners on the ice.
I thought the Heatley, Spezza, Alfreddson line looked average in the game tonight other than a few rushes and powerplay chances here and there. I've been extremely impressed with the play of Mike Comrie and the other "role players" on the Senators team. I still feel the most impressive line on the ice for the first two periods of play was the 4th line of the Penguins: Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu and Ronald Petrovicky.
Overall, the Penguins competed hard and looked like a playoff team, but find themselves in a 3-1 hole, and have no one to thank for that but Ottawa because they have either outplayed the Pens completely in games, or found a way to win (other than the Pens one victory). The fight the Penguins showed tonight is most likely too little, too late, and you must give the Senators all the credit in the world right now because they have earned it. I hope Game 5 is as entertaining as Game 4, because it was a great hockey game for fans of both teams.