There were no bones about it. Friday’s critical game four in the NHL Eastern Conference finals was a must win for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The defending Stanley Cup champions had fallen behind two games to one and their lethargic offense was a shadow of its usual potent self. If the Penguins were to defend their title they would have to win on the road with a hostile crowd roaring in their ears.
The Penguins were up to the task and the series is now tied 2-2 and headed back to Pittsburgh.
The Penguins and Senators are all tied up. https://t.co/F1wwtZN8IW
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 20, 2017
The Ottawa Senators’ suffocating defense and great goaltending had given the Penguins fits but the road team was able to score the critical first goal when defenseman Olli Maatta put the puck home. Maata’s tally came with less than a minute left in the first period, a momentum crusher for the Senators.
The Pens would go on to score two more goals in the second period. One on a nice tap in shot by Sidney Crosby that bamboozled Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.
Crosby hadn’t been himself since a vicious cross check to the head by Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen in game three of the Penguins previous series. If the superstar has emerged from the fog he’d been skating in it’s probably not a good omen for the Senators.
Less than four minutes later the Penguins would strike again. A shot by Pittsburgh’s Brian Dumoulin ricocheted off the skate of an Ottawa defender past a stunned Anderson.
With a 3-0 lead the Penguins then held on for dear life and beat back a furious Senators comeback to win the game 3-2.
Last year’s playoff hero Matt Murray replaced Marc-Andre Fleury in goal after the latter was shelled in game three. Murray stopped 24 of 26 shots on the way to the win.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 20, 2017
In addition to the win, the Penguins also regained home ice advantage with two of the final three games to be played in PPG Paints Arena.
The puck will be dropped for game five at 3 PM ET on Sunday.