Sens be­lieve in them­selves against de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SHELLY AN­DER­SON

PITTS­BURGH — A day af­ter they slowed, stalled and ul­ti­mately out­lasted the de­fend­ing Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Pitts­burgh Pen­guins on the road in Game 1 of the Na­tional Hockey League’s Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal, the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors found much of the nar­ra­tive sur­round­ing them car­ried a hey-how’d-you-do-that tone.

While the Sens seemed happy to an­a­lyze their 2-1 over­time win Satur­day, they were equally in­tent on look­ing ahead to Game 2, set for Mon­day night at PPG Paints Arena, and ex­press­ing a be­lief in them­selves mov­ing for­ward.

“We know as a group we have good hockey play­ers. We’re a good team,” Se­na­tors goal­tender Craig An­der­son, who made 27 saves, said Sun­day.

“You have to re­spect your op­po­nent. We know they’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of star power. They’ve got some great play­ers. Watch­ing them play against Wash­ing­ton (in Round 2), they played great as a team. So it’s just a mat­ter, for us, stay­ing in the mo­ment, and, win or lose, get­ting ready for the next one.”

Ot­tawa, a team left out of the play­offs last sea­son, ran off Bos­ton and the New York Rangers be­fore tak­ing the se­ries lead against Pitts­burgh. That has ei­ther spawned, or been the re­sult of, a new-found co­he­sion among the Se­na­tors.

“It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent feel,” vet­eran cen­tre Zack Smith said. “This is my sev­enth year. It’s not even so much a quiet con­fi­dence, but just trust within the group.

“Hon­estly, it’s been amaz­ing through­out the whole play­offs.”

Beat­ing the Pen­guins is eas­ier when their stars are held in check.

Ot­tawa killed all five Pitts­burgh power plays, in­clud­ing 45 sec­onds of 5-on-3 play, and didn’t al­low a plethora of dan­ger­ous chances around the net.

Al­though play­off points leader Ev­geni Malkin scored, fel­low cen­tre and Rocket Richard Tro­phy win­ner Sid­ney Crosby was held to two shots — and no other shot at­tempts — and post-sea­son goals leader Jake Guentzel, one of Crosby’s line­mates, had one shot. Sniper Phil Kes­sel had three shots but also three give­aways and was mostly quiet.

“To be hon­est with you, we didn’t talk about Crosby once,” Se­na­tors coach Guy Boucher said. “We’ve ap­proached games the same way for a while — we need ev­ery­body to be able to play against any­body. We’ve al­ways wanted our team to look at our de­fen­sive group play­ing not as a one-on-one but more as a pack men­tal­ity.

“So it doesn’t mat­ter who we play against or how good they are. We’re aware of their strengths, but if we pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to Crosby, then Malkin’s go­ing to give it to us. If we pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to him, then Kes­sel’s go­ing to give it to us. They’ve got too many tools and play­ers for us to start fo­cus­ing on par­tic­u­lar guys or start wor­ry­ing about them every time they’re on the ice.”

With per­haps a nod to the Game 1 out­come, Ot­tawa took a day away from the ice Sun­day while the Pen­guins held a full-team prac­tice.

GENE J. PUSKAR, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ot­tawa Se­na­tors goalie Craig An­der­son stops a shot by Pitts­burgh Pen­guins’ Ev­geni Malkin in the sec­ond pe­riod of Game 1 on Satur­day night.

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