OTTAWA // The Pittsburgh Penguins took advantage of some shoddy defending to beat the Ottawa Senators 4-2 yesterday and take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven NHL play-off series. The Stanley Cup champions scored on their first shot in a bad-tempered contest and although Ottawa rallied to tie the game, second-period goals by forward Evgeni Malkin and captain Sidney Crosby secured the win for the visitors.
The Penguins, still unhappy about a hit from Ottawa's Andy Sutton on Jordan Leopold in Game Two, started in an angry mood and the game was marked by a series of crunching hits, fights and penalties. Ottawa had split the first two games of the series in Pittsburgh but appeared sluggish on their return home and were a goal down just 1:17 into the game when Alexei Ponikarovsky easily beat goaltender Brian Elliott.
"That goal was huge for us to get us started. It was tough sledding there in the first period but when you look up and you see 1-0, it's a big boost for your team, especially when you go on the road," Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma said. Mike Fisher tied the game at 1:53 into the second period but four minutes later, rookie defender Erik Karlsson lost control of the puck near his net, allowing Maxime Talbot to steal in and present Malkin with an easy finish.
Crosby scored on a powerplay to give his team a 3-1 lead at 19:15 in the second period, effectively killing off the game. Bill Guerin added a breakaway goal at 4:27 in the third period while Matt Cullen scored a late power-play goal for Ottawa. "We didn't bury our chances and they were very opportunistic ... I think we all have to play a little bit better," the Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston said.
In Philadelphia, Daniel Carcillo netted the game-winner with a wrap-around score at 3:35 in overtime to help the Flyers to a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils and a 2-1 series lead. In Denver, goaltender Craig Anderson set a play-off record by making 50 saves in regulation without conceding as the Colorado Avalanche claimed a 2-1 series lead over the San Jose Sharks with a 1-0 overtime triumph.
Rookie Ryan O'Reilly scored the game-winner just 51 seconds into the extra session and Anderson finished with 51 total saves as Colorado stunned the top seeded team in the Western Conference. In Detroit, Wojtek Wolski scored his third goal of the series with 32 seconds remaining in the second period to help the Phoenix Coyotes register a 4-2 victory over the Red Wings for a 2-1 series lead. The West's second seed, the Chicago Blackhawks, got 23 saves from Antti Niemi in a 2-0 shutout win over the Nashville Predators that evened their series 1-1.