Senators deal Pens Game 1 defeat

One game, and the Pittsburgh Penguins already know this. Nothing

comes easy for a defending champion, not even the playoff series

opener against a seemingly overmatched opponent.

Erik Karlsson and Chris Kelly scored on power plays in the

second period and the Ottawa Senators ignored their underdog tag

and the Penguins’ recent playoff success, surprising the Stanley

Cup champions with a 5-4 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern

Conference first-round series Wednesday night.

“Nobody’s picking us to win the series,” Ottawa forward Jason

Spezza said.

Evgeni Malkin scored twice following penalties on Peter

Regin, the first barely 3 minutes into the game, but the

fourth-seeded Penguins looked mostly flat and uninspired for long

periods in beginning their bid to become the NHL’s first repeat

champion since Detroit in 1998.

“We can’t hang our heads and just say something (like) ‘We

didn’t execute,’ ” forward Alexei Ponikarovsky said. “We just have

to do a better job. We’ve got to work and win the rest of them.”

Sidney Crosby, who piled up 15 points in his final five

regular-season games, had three assists but was held without a shot

until getting two in the third period. Ottawa constantly matched

shutdown defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips against the

Crosby line.

With their star so tightly covered, the Penguins – seemingly

unsettled by Ottawa’s defensive pressure – were held to a single

shot during a stretch lasting 21 minutes, 53 seconds following

Malkin’s first goal.

The Senators, one of the biggest underdogs of the first-round

qualifiers, went from being down a goal to being up 3-1 during that

period as Regin, Chris Neil and Kelly scored – quieting a standing

room crowd of 17,132 that clearly arrived expecting another long

playoff run by the home team.

“For sure we’d like to get to their d-men and have some speed

through the neutral zone, but that starts in other places, too, and

we have got to get there,” Crosby said.

Goalie Brian Elliott gave up four goals on 21 shots in his

playoff debut, but made several big stops on Ponikarovsky and

Malkin in the second period as the Penguins pressed to tie it

following Malkin’s second goal, at 10:22.

Instead, the 19-year-old Karlsson restored Ottawa’s two-goal

lead less than 3 minutes later, collecting a rebound of a shot from

the left point by Matt Cullen that rebounded off Mike Fisher in

front and wristing it into a wide-open corner of the net to make it

4-2.

No coincidence, the Senators said, that rookies Karlsson and

Regin scored in their playoff debuts.

“They just feed off one another, if one scores, the other

one’s got to score to match,” Neil said. “They room together,

they’re inseparable. We call them the twins.”

On this night, they were twice the trouble for Pittsburgh.

“They (the Senators) made it very difficult, and their

forwards were coming back hard (on defense),” Penguins coach Dan

Bylsma said. “They had five men around the net and made it tough to

get to the net.”

The fifth-seeded Senators also got a fortuitous bounce on

Kelly’s goal at 1:20 of the second that put them up 3-1. Chris

Campoli was attempting to wrap the puck around the boards, but it

took an odd deflection directly to Kelly close to the net with no

defender near him. Kelly also had two assists.

“That bounce they got on that third goal ended up being the

difference,” Crosby said.

Pittsburgh made several more pushes, with Craig Adams getting

a goal at 5:16 of the third after playing all 82 regular-season

games without scoring. He scored three goals during last season’s

playoffs.

Again, the Senators answered as former Penguins agitator

Jarkko Ruutu accepted Neil’s giveback pass to beat Marc-Andre

Fleury on a wrist shot at 9:40 of the third. Ruutu began the rush

by controlling the puck along the boards and feeding it up ice.

Fleury faced 26 shots during a shaky performance.

“I think there’s a couple (of goals) he’s going to be

thinking about, is going to want back. He knows he has to be a lot

better to give us a chance,” Bylsma said.

Alex Goligoski cut it to one goal again by scoring with 2:14

remaining, but the Penguins couldn’t tie it even as their white

shirt-wearing fans stood, chanting, “Let’s Go, Pens!” for most of

the final 2 minutes.

The Penguins won seven of eight playoff rounds during the

previous two seasons, losing only to Detroit in the 2008 finals,

but this time they almost seemed to relax after Malkin scored off

Sergei Gonchar’s pass on their first power play of the postseason.

The goal came almost too easy and, rather than building on the

early momentum, Pittsburgh allowed it to slip away and Ottawa tied

it on Regin’s goal at 8:45 off a long rebound.

“I think we can to try to build off this,” Spezza said. “If

we focus on the short-term and we’re not looking too far ahead, we

can slowly creep up on them.”