Ottawa Senators Win Big at Home in Eastern Conference Final Game 3

Eastern Conference Finals Game 3
Zack Smith #15 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal against Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canadian Tire Centre on May 17, 2017 in Ottawa, Canada. (by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

After both teams combined only scored three goals total in the first two games; things change in the Eastern Conference Final Game 3. Much of the talk surrounding this series has been focused on the “boring” style of play that comes with the Ottawa Senators system. The 1-3-1 system that Guy Boucher lives and dies by focuses on clogging up the neutral zone. It can limit offensive chances for both teams. That was not the case in Game 3, as Ottawa scored four first period goals and won 5-1.

Ottawa Senators Win Big at Home in Eastern Conference Final Game 3

Scoring Early

The Senators returned home with the series tied 1-1 after splitting the two games in Pittsburgh. After a very lacklustre third period for Ottawa in Game 2, the Sens came out of the gate flying in their home debut of the Eastern Conference Finals. In fact, it only took 48 seconds for Mike Hoffman to get the first goal. It was a lucky bounce from behind the goal line that just managed to squeak past Marc-Andre Fleury, but it was the exact spark the home crowd needed to get into the game. Getting the lead early is crucial. The team that scores first has a 47-25 record in the playoffs.

When it Rains, it Pours

The Penguins seemed shocked when the Senators got off to such a great start. They were not able to stop the home teams momentum. Marc Methot scored his first goal of the year earlier in the playoffs, and doubled his scoring total in this game. Methot’s shot found the back of the net around the half-way point of the first period. The Senators often have their defensemen pinch aggressively to add to the offence. Methot scored his goal in the slot. His shot went off Ian Cole and in. This goal also does not happen without Derick Brassard making a great move to fool Fleury and set up the play.

And it didn’t end there for the Pens. Clarke MacArthur sent a nice pass across the slot right to Brassard who had a wide open net and made it 3-0. 24 seconds later the Sens made it 4-0. Zack Smith dumped the puck in high off the glass and worked hard to retrieve it, then wrapped around the net and tucked it in for his first post season goal this year and the second of his career. That ended Fleury’s night and in came Matt Murray, who hasn’t played since being hurt in the warm-up of the first game of the playoffs.

Crease Control

All of the Senators first period goals in Game 3 came from a few feet from the net. The depleted Pittsburgh defence corps just wasn’t able to handle the constant attack up close. Apart from the first and fourth goals, Fleury didn’t have much help from his defence.

At the other end of the ice, Craig Anderson took matters into his own hands. Very few of the shots the Penguins had on net escaped him for rebounds. Anderson was able to snag shots into his glove as well as freeze the play on Pittsburgh scoring chances. It wasn’t until six minutes into the third period that the Penguins were able to get on the score sheet. Sidney Crosby had a nice deflection in front of the net that fooled Anderson and slipped between his pads. That was the first power play goal of the series.

Can the wounded Penguins bounce back?

Although the Senators ended up winning this game 5-1, it wasn’t obvious by the shot count. Ottawa only out shot Pittsburgh 29-26. However, the Penguins were victims of a few unfortunate bounces. They could not reel in this game after falling behind early. With Fleury getting the hook, it will be interesting to see who starts the next game for the Penguins. The Penguins saw new faces make their debuts in this series. Trevor Daley and Mark Streit also reentered the lineup, giving their team a boost in veteran defensemen. The defending Stanley Cup Champions will have to have a better effort than Game 3. Losing the next game would put their hopes of back to back Cups in serious jeopardy.

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