BLUE JAYS IN BALTIMORE:
Murray sharp in first start as Senators drop Game 4
OTTAWA — Sidney Crosby is just fine.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain quickly put to rest any questions about his play with a resurgent Game 4 performance. Crosby had a goal, an assist and five shots as the Pens downed the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Friday night, evening the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final at two games apiece with Game 5 ahead in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.
Matt Murray was sharp with 22 saves in his first start of the playoffs. Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta also found the back of the net for the defending champs, who came alive after a stunted start to the series.
Crosby had only one point as the Pens dropped two of the first three against Ottawa, leading to inevitable questions about his health — following a jarring concussion in the second round — as well as the Sens efforts in slowing him down.
Clarke MacArthur and Tom Pyatt scored for Ottawa and Craig Anderson surrendered three goals on 35 shots.
Starting for the first time in more than six weeks, Murray looked dialled in right away. He made a strong stop on Mike Hoffman less than two minutes into the game and then denied Viktor Stalberg on a pair of followup opportunities.
The 22-year-old was head coach Mike Sullivan’s somewhat surpris- ing choice to start Game 4.
Marc-Andre Fleury started the first 15 games for Pittsburgh with Murray mostly sidelined by injury and had been stellar right up until Wednesday’s Game 3 when he allowed four goals on nine shots in a 5-1 loss.
Sullivan declined to elaborate on his decision shortly after announcing it hours before game-time, but Murray kept justifying it with his play in the first half of an opening period that saw the Sens — wearing small Canadian flags on their helmets — mostly in control.
He made maybe his best stop on a Derick Brassard backhand, kicking the shot away with his right pad.
Surviving the early storm, the Pens pulled in front with the game’s first goal in the 19th minute on a seemingly harmless shot by Maatta, who strode down the left side and fired short-side on Anderson. Setting up the play was Crosby, who had an urgency to his game which had been lacking early this series (one goal, no assists).
The Sens pulled within one with five minutes left when Pyatt got a skate on an already deflected Erik Karlsson point shot, but their late rally ultimately fell short.
Senators’ Derick Brassard looks to shoot on Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray during the first period of game four of the Eastern Conference final in Ottawa on Friday.