The Ottawa Senators answered their critics very quickly, and emphatically, in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, scoring 4 goals in the first 13 minutes. They came out with plenty of energy, going hard on the forecheck.
Mike Hoffman banked the puck off of Pittsburgh goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, just 48 seconds after the opening face off. Ottawa got another lucky bounce on their second goal 10 minutes later. Marc Methot, a stay at home defencemen, was stopped by Fleury, but the rebound bounced off Ian Cole, before Fluery ended up kicking the puck back into his own goal. Two more quick goals by Derick Brassard and Zack Smith a couple of minutes later spelled the end of Fleury's night. Kyle Turris would score in the second period on Fluery's replacement, Matt Murray, while Sidney Crosby scored the lone goal for the Penguins in a 5-1 loss.
Playing in front of a packed house, Ottawa realized they needed to press the Penguins. They couldn't quite sit back like they did in the last game and wait for a mistake that never came. You can't win a game if you can't score, after all. The only problem area was the power-play, which might have explained as to why Senators' head coach, Guy Boucher, still had his regular power-play units out there at the end.
As much as the Senators system has shut down the Penguins, the injury bug hasn't helped, either. The team got back Trevor Daley, no doubt at less than 100 percent, but was without Justin Schultz, who was hurt early in game 2. As a result, the defence wasn't very good in front of Fleury.
Up front, Patric Hornqvist's absence is hurting the Pittsburgh offence. Without him, Mike Sullivan doesn't have the ability to shake up his lines. Malkin and Kessel continue to struggle, while Sidney Crosby simply does not seem to be the same player as he was before getting cross checked in the face in the last series by Washington's Matt Niskanen. Jake Guentzel leads the playoffs with 9 goals, but hasn't been much of a threat so far. Conor Sheary hasn't scored at all.
There will be much discussions, outside and within the coaches room, as to who should start in the next game for the Pittsburgh Penguins. In a role reversal from a year ago, Fluery took over for Matt Murray after Murray hurt himself during the warm ups in the very first playoff game. There will be some who will suggest he should start game 4, giving the Penguins a change.
By no means was Fleury the reason the team lost. He's had his ups and downs in the playoffs, but replacing him would unfairly put everything on him. He deserves another chance to go back into the net. The Penguins might not even be here without him.
That being said, if we hop in Doc Brown's time traveling DeLorean and go back to last years' conference final, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, tabbed Fleury to start game 5 with the series tied. Sullivan felt Murray needed the breather. The Penguins lost and Murray was back in between the pipes for game 6 and 7, which they won. Could Sullivan do the same thing this year?