Daniel Alfredsson scored the tying goal with 29 seconds left in regulation and Colin Greening netted the winner 7:39 into the second overtime, giving the Ottawa Senators a 2-1 sudden-death victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night at Scotiabank Place.
The Penguins still lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series two games to one, with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night in Ottawa, but the next two days will be filled with “what ifs” for Pittsburgh, which appeared to have its seventh win of the playoffs all but locked up.
After Tyler Kennedy scored his second goal of the postseason on a perfect wrist shot with 1:07 remaining in the second period, the Penguins switched into lead-protection mode in the third. Ottawa’s only legitimate chance to tie before Alfredsson struck was when Chris Neil couldn’t lift a rebound over goalie Tomas Vokoun, who made the best of his 46 saves by stretching out his right toe.
The Penguins probably let thoughts of a 3-0 series lead enter their heads in the final minute of regulation, as Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson went off for slashing. However, instead of scoring a clinching power-play goal or at least killing the clock, the Pens allowed Alfredsson to sprint directly to the net and redirect Milan Michalek’s bullet pass under the crossbar to send Scotiabank Place into unexpected bedlam.
Despite the untimely defensive gaffe, the Penguins still had 29 seconds of power-play time before the end of the third period and 33 more ticks once overtime began. Pittsburgh couldn’t convert there and also early in the second OT when Matt Cooke drew a penalty to Chris Phillips, finishing an uncharacteristic 0 for 6 on the man advantage.
Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson was sharp all night but particularly in overtime, when the Penguins had 18 of their 50 shots. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby created up chances shift after shift in sudden death, but the Sens netminder was equal to the task two days after getting pulled in Game 2. Anderson also got a bit of luck when Pascal Dupuis’ shot halfway into the first OT hit the left post.
Vokoun was just as solid beyond regulation, but the Senators finally got the best of him immediately following a failed power play of their own. Pens blueliner Mark Eaton lost his stick as Greening set up Andre Benoit for an uncontested shot from the right circle. Vokoun made the initial stop, but Eaton and defense partner Brooks Orpik couldn’t recover to get a body on Greening, who slid a backhand home for his first career playoff OT goal.
Overtime might’ve been a good bet after the teams played the first scoreless period of the series in the first, when the Penguins outshot the Senators 12-8. The two sides were close to a second goal-less frame until Cooke helped keep a puck in the Ottawa zone and fed Kennedy for a dart to the top shelf from between the circles.
Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Orpik were all extremely strong while playing more than 35 minutes each. Crosby skated a career-high 33:08, while Malkin, whose 10 shots led all players, was on the ice for 29:51. Crosby had the Penguins’ best scoring chance before Kennedy broke through, but he was denied by Anderson on a breakaway early in the second period.
Karlsson (39:48) logged the most ice time in the game, as he was much better than Friday’s Game 2, when Ottawa coach Paul MacLean limited his struggling young dynamo to less than 10 minutes. Kyle Turris topped all Senators forwards with 31:02, beating his previous high by more than seven minutes.
All those tired legs will welcome another two-day break between contests, as faceoff for Game 4 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern time at Scotiabank Place.