Penguins fail to close out Senators, Game 7 awaits
OTTAWA — For all the success the Penguins have had during their run deep into the Eastern Conference final, there’s one thing they have failed at in all three playoff rounds.
Finishing an opponent the first time they get the chance.
Mike Hoffman scored a tiebreaking goal in the third period, and the Ottawa Senators defeated the Penguins, 2-1, in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
The Penguins will get their second — and last — chance to polish off the Senators in Game 7 on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. The winner will receive a trip to the Stanley Cup Final to meet the Nashville Predators.
The Penguins let Columbus off the hook in Game 4 in the first round and failed to close out Washington twice before winning Game 7.
“I don’t see a common denominator, other than the fact that we’re playing good hockey teams,” Sullivan said. “It’s hard to win. We’re playing good hockey teams, and they’re playing with their backs to the wall.”
“I really liked a lot of our game. I thought we had a great start. We talked about having a good start. We had a great start. We won a lot of faceoffs. We had some zone time. We controlled the shot clock. There was a lot of this game to like.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the result. I don’t think we can get discouraged by that. … We’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.”
The Penguins dominated the second period, but thanks to a few unfinished chances around the net and a bounce-back performance from goalie Craig Anderson coming off a 7-0 loss in Game 5, they went into the third period tied.
“I thought we played the way we needed to to be successful,” goalie Matt Murray said. “I think Anderson is the reason that they got this one. He played big for them.”
Hoffman broke the tie less than two minutes into the third.
On a three-man counter-attack, Hoffman wound up and fired from the left wing through traffic and in off the far post to give Ottawa the lead for good.
“I’m not really one to tip my cap, but he’s a good shooter,” Murray said. “He’s one of the best shooters in the league. I just tried to be aggressive. I knew there wasn’t a pass option. He did a really good job of holding it and waiting for the screen to get to the net. The guy in front skated by right at the release point, so I was late picking it up.”
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save in front of the Senators’ Zack Smith during the first period of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final Tuesday, May 23, 2017, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. For more images from Game 6, visit the Trib’s photo gallery.
Photo by Christopher Horner
The goal was a jarring change from a second period that saw the Penguins outshoot the Senators, 23-10.
About three minutes in, Trevor Daley took a pass from Sidney Crosby and shot from the right circle. When he saw Anderson fumbling the puck, he barged to the cage.
Daley whacked and whacked until the puck went in, but after a coach’s challenge, referees ruled he prevented Anderson from making the save. The goal was waved off.
“Nothing we can do about it,” Daley said. “I thought he was squirming in the net. I didn’t think I really pushed him in. I thought he was back in there already. But I didn’t get to call it. It wasn’t my call.”
Less than two minutes later, Evgeni Malkin turned in an individual effort that no video review could nullify. He picked up a rebound off the glass behind the net, shed defender Zack Smith, spun out to the front of the net, shot and steered his own rebound past Anderson on the backhand.
It was a Conn Smythe moment for the leading scorer of the playoffs, but the lead didn’t stand up long.
In the middle of the period, Ron Hainsey and Ian Cole were called for minor penalties 36 seconds apart.
On the five-on-three power play that followed, Bobby Ryan connected on a one-timer from the left faceoff circle to make it 1-1.
“The first penalty on Hainsey is one that we’d maybe like to have a second opinion. We get unlucky with a high stick, and they get a five-on-three goal,” Daley said. “You roll with the punches, I guess. We do a lot of the same stuff Game 7, we’ll be fine.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.
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