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Saturday May 27 2017
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Penguins fall to Senators in overtime

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The Ottawa Senators opened the Eastern Conference Finals with a 2-1 in overtime in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

The ebbs and flows of postseason hockey are uncanny.

After playing a near 55-minutes of what felt like October-esque, tune-em-up style hockey, the Penguins and Geno Malkin woke up the library of silence that was PPG Paints Arena, scoring just outside of the crease through the five-hole on goalie Craig Anderson, tying the game with 5:35 left in the third period, eventually sending things to overtime.

That’s when Ottawa's Bobby Ryan ruined the whole darn thing.

Ryan (5) picked up a puck that sailed past Justin Schultz in the Penguins zone, then pushed ahead of a trailing Olli Maata on a breakaway, scoring the game-winner on a forehand-to-backhand, top-shelf finish at the 15:01 mark to give the Senators a 2-1 overtime shocker in Game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, Saturday evening.

The Senators are now 6-1 in overtime games this postseason.

Pittsburgh, who came in a chalky -185 closing favorite, has now lost three of their last six postseason games played on friendly ice.

Ottawa posted 35 shots on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who with the Pens, lost their first postseason Game one contest since exactly one year ago from Saturday, when Tampa Bay stole the show at then-Consol Energy Center in a series Pittsburgh would eventually win in seven.

“You always want to get off to a good start and get that lead,” said Schultz.  “Against these guys, they shut it down real good.  It’s different (from Washington), it’s a lot different, but we knew it was coming.  It comes down to being patient and not getting frustrated.”

The tone was set in the man-advantage category, where Pittsburgh went a miserable 0 for 5, helping the Senators’ netminder to one of his best postseason starts of 2017, stopping 27 of 28 Pens shots.

“We didn’t execute,” said Coach Mike Sullivan of the power play.  “The movement wasn’t there, passes weren’t’ crisp.  Our guys, for most of the playoffs have been locked in, and they’ve done a commendable job, but for whatever reason tonight we didn’t do a good job with it.”

Coming from the quick, rough and forecheck-happy tune of Washington’s style, the Penguins were forced to dial back the tempo with the slower, defensive-minded pace that Ottawa brought to the table, in which Pittsburgh never fully took advantage of offensive zone opportunities, including a missed 5-on-3 advantage in the latter stages of the first period.

“It would have been nice to get one on that 5-on-3 there,” said Bryan Rust.  “We had a couple of good looks, but we didn’t execute as well as we can.  Our power play was disappointing, and we have to be better with it next game.”

Soon after the two-man advantage failed for the Pens, Ryan made his first nosie of the night, dishing a beautiful no-look pass to a finishing Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the 14:32 mark of the period. 

The staunch defensive prowess of Ottawa—both on the penalty kill and even strength—helped keep Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel to a combined six shots on goal, helping the Sens' lone goal stand its sturdy ground until Geno's equalizer.

Malkin had a deep tone when discussing the uninspiring performance; and the idea of not being fully prepared for a game as big as Saturday’s was.

“If we’re not ready for the conference Finals, then we’re a bad team,” he said.  “I think emotionally we’re fine, but it’s like the next step to the Finals, and it’s not going to be easy, and we’re going to play against good teams.  We know they’re a good team.  We can get better.”

"We've been in these situations before," said a reassuring Sullivan.  "Our expectation was this was going to be a hard fought series, an that's exactly how it started.  It's nothing we didn't expect.  We've got to embrace it.  We've got to find ways to have success."

Game two for the Penguins and Senators is set for Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.  Puck drops at 8 PM.

NOTES: Evgeni Malkin, who scored his sixth goal of the postseason Saturday, surpassed Jaromir Jagr for third on the Penguins all-time list with 148 career-postseason points.

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