The Ottawa Senators will aim for their first win of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday, when they host the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 at Scotiabank Place.
The Senators are down two games to none in this best-of-seven set after getting outscored by a combined 8-4 margin over the first two meetings in Pittsburgh.
Ottawa hopes the return of centerman Jason Spezza can help it get on the board in Game 3. Spezza, who underwent back surgery on Feb. 1, hasn't played since the fifth game of the regular season, but he is expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday night. Spezza has been skating with the team since shortly after the Sens eliminated Montreal in the conference quarterfinals, and took part in a full practice on Saturday.
"I've gone through a full recovery," Spezza told his club's web site. "Obviously I've been off a long time, you're never going to be quite the same right away. I've put in the work so it's not like I'm expected to play out of the blue."
Spezza is a proven playoff performer, recording 51 points (17G, 34A) over 53 career postseason games.
After taking the opener by a 4-1 score on Tuesday, the Penguins needed to work a bit harder for their 4-3 victory in Friday's Game 2. It was Pittsburgh's fourth straight win since losing Game 4 to the New York Islanders in the opening round. The Penguins won that series in six games to advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2010.
Sidney Crosby scored Pittsburgh's first three goals of the game and completed the hat trick just 1:15 into the second period, when his sixth goal of the playoffs gave the Pens a 3-1 advantage.
Ottawa trailed 4-2 after 40 minutes, but Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored 2:01 into the third period to make it a one-goal game. The Penguins, however, were able to hold on for the win, as Tomas Vokoun turned aside 19 shots to record his fourth straight win since replacing Marc-Andre Fleury prior to Game 5 against the Isles.
Crosby posted his second career playoff hat trick on Friday. The 25-year-old center has owned Ottawa in recent years, picking up at least one point (10G, 15A) in nine of his past 11 postseason games against the Sens.
With his first goal on Friday, Crosby reached 100 points in the postseason in just his 75th game, becoming the fifth fastest player to accomplish the feat. His second tally also moved him past Ron Francis for sole possession of fourth place on the franchise's all-time postseason point list.
"It's not something you want to get too caught up in, but it's always nice to score and obviously to get a hat trick, I know it feels good," Crosby said. "And to get the win, it makes it a lot better when you win."
Brenden Morrow registered Pittsburgh's other goal, which ended up being the deciding tally for the Pens, who have a 2-0 lead in a series for the first time since sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2009 Eastern Conference finals en route to their last Stanley Cup title.
Kyle Turris and Colin Greening also scored once for the Senators, who fell to 2-3 on the road in the 2013 playoffs.
Craig Anderson allowed three goals on 21 shots before being removed following Crosby's third goal early in the second. Robin Lehner, making his first career postseason appearance, stopped 20-of-21 shots in relief.
"We were not ready to match [their start]," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean admitted. "Catch-up hockey is losing hockey. We have to make sure we're ready for the next game at the start."
The seventh-seeded Sens hope to get off to a better start Sunday in front of their home fans. Ottawa was 15-6-3 at Scotiabank Place during the regular season and was 2-0 as the host in its opening-round win over the second-seeded Canadiens.
Pittsburgh was 2-1 on the road against the Isles in Round 1. During the regular season, the Pens had identical 18-6-0 records at home and on the road.
Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday in Canada's capital city.