So remember in my Game 2 recap (which you probably didn’t read but let’s pretend to build my self-esteem) when I said that both goalies have been spectacular? Yeah scratch that.
It was clear the Penguins could have used some kind of superior power to call upon for help. Perhaps that of the infamous catfish that was waved in the air during the Ducks vs Predators Game 3. Because this was a massacre.
Fast forward 48 seconds into the first period and the Senators scored their first goal from Mike Hoffman after a faceoff win by Kyle Turris. Fast forward to 10:34 into the same period and Marc Methot scored their second goal. Then 12:28 into the first Derick Brassard adds another goal. And as if that isn’t enough, the fourth goal came 12:52 into the same period by Zack Smith. 4 goals in one period. FOUR. BY THE SAME TEAM. ON 9 SHOTS.
Three goals within two minutes and 18 seconds. Needless to say, Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan pulled Marc-Andre Fleury and replaced him with Matt Murray after Smith scored Ottawa’s fourth goal in the first period.
Murray was the designated starter for the first game of the playoffs in Round One when the Penguins faced off against the Blue Jackets on April 12th. He was then sidelined with a groin injury he sustained in practice and was replaced by Fleury, who seemed to be on quite a roll until Game 3.
Not only did Fleury’s loss have quite the implication for the Penguins performance, it also could determine his future status in Pittsburgh. The expansion draft has raised a lot of questions about what Pittsburgh will do with both goalies. There was talk of the Penguins wanting Fleury to waive his no-trade clause and get traded to Vegas to play with the Golden Knights.
Then when he was unexpectedly the only goalie available for the playoffs and began performing at such a high level, you couldn’t help but wonder if it would change his projected path. To be fair, he is the entire reason Pittsburgh got this far in the first place. However, that may not be enough for Penguins GM Jim Rutherford.
Coach Sullivan stated that he will sleep on his decision on who to start for Game 4 but I think he will opt for Murray after watching Fleury fall apart in Game 3.
Murray stepped into the role seamlessly after sitting out for over a month, allowing one more goal by the Senators in the second period.
The Penguins only goal came in the 3rd period (13:53) from Sidney Crosby, his first in the Eastern Conference Final. The shining light for Pittsburgh fans is that it’s their first power play goal vs the Senators in all 3 games. But obviously it came a little too late to save face or to save Game 3.
Craig Anderson continued to perform at an unprecedented level, making 25 saves and only allowing one goal. The Senators have kept the Penguins to only three goals in three games, in comparison to Pittsburgh allowing 7 Ottawa goals (including one shutout).
The Senators wanted to come out aggressive and scoring one goal in the first 48 seconds of the game, followed by three more in the same period, is quite aggressive.
Pittsburgh looked sluggish and Ottawa took full advantage. The question will be how the Pens choose to respond. After gaining a 3-1 lead vs the Caps and then losing two straight games, they fought hard against Washington and completely dominated them in Game 7. It’s possible that team returns. It’s also possible they don’t.
One thing Pittsburgh has made fairly clear this season is their fight. Even after losing two back-to-back games after winning 3 of 4, they came back with purpose and made the necessary adjustments to take the series from the Caps. Whether or not they’ll find that fire again, we’ll have to wait until Friday. If such an embarrassing loss from a team that won the Cup last year isn’t motivation enough, I don’t know what is.
They still have another game to play in Ottawa and if you watched Game 3 you could see what an advantage the crowd gave the Senators. So Pens fans better start slamming beers and grabbing catfish if they want to stand a chance against Ottawa.
Game 4 starts Friday at 8PM ET on NBCSN.