OTTAWA (AP) — Trailing by a game in their first-round series against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Ottawa Senators know the importance of Game 4.
Ottawa took home-ice advantage in its Eastern Conference quarterfinal with a 5-4 win in the series opener in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby's Penguins regained the upper hand by winning the next two games, including a 4-2 victory Sunday night at Scotiabank Place.
"Obviously (Tuesday night) is a big game," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said Monday. "Win, we're right back in it. If we lose, we've dug ourselves a deep hole. So we look for tomorrow's game for our chance to gain momentum in the series again and go from there."
Ottawa never led Sunday, falling behind 1:13 in when Alexei Ponikarovsky beat Brian Elliott from the right faceoff circle. The Senators tied it on Mike Fisher's power-play goal early in the second, but Evgeni Malkin restored Pittsburgh's lead for good moments later when he put away a loose puck after Elliott was unable to poke it away.
Crosby scored his second goal of the series on a power play late in the second. He added an assist on Bill Guerin's breakaway goal in the third for his seventh playoff point.
"Sid is also doing it in the defensive end," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Winning battles, jumping to loose pucks and getting out of the defensive zone with that ability to play defense. That's a big aspect of minimizing a team's ability to be effective against you playing in the offensive zone."
Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said Elliott has played "fairly well" so far, though he added that the Senators needed a better outing from their starting goalie to ensure a return trip to Scotiabank Place.
"We need him to bring his 'A' game (Tuesday) night, for sure," Clouston said. "I don't think we're a good enough team to have just average goaltending. I'm not saying he's been average but I think he's been a little bit inconsistent at times, but that's no different than our team. We have to be really good (Tuesday) night, everybody."
Elliott cemented his hold on the No. 1 role ahead of Pascal Leclaire with his play during a franchise-record 11-game winning streak prior to the Olympic break in February. Ottawa had lost five in a row prior to its record run.
"We've bounced back from bad games or bad stretches and that's how you stay positive," Elliott said. "You know that the grass is greener on the other side, it's just getting to that other side."
One day after dropping his second in a row, Elliott put the result of Sunday's 20-save effort in the past.
"I don't think you get to this level without being able to forget some games," Elliott said. "You have good and bad and you've just got to keep it levelheaded and not get too high, not get too low. And now's the time to stay the course. We have a good game plan. We've just got to execute and we're confident we can do that."
Top scorers Alfredsson and Jason Spezza have yet to find the back of the net for Ottawa.
"We had some really good chances to take the lead and we couldn't, and then they'd just go down and score right after and gain all the momentum," Alfredsson said. "We felt we played pretty good. There are some areas where we need to be better but we're not going to make any major changes."
Nonetheless, Clouston acknowledged that he was considering a few lineup changes.
"Yeah, we're tempted, for sure," Clouston said. "There might be a change or two."
With playoff veterans Shean Donovan and Jonathan Cheechoo available to play, either or both may dress for Game 4. Donovan appeared in 30 games and was often a healthy scratch. Cheechoo, who had a 56-goal season with San Jose, finished the season with Binghamton of the AHL.
"They both provide something different and we're definitely looking at that for (Tuesday night)," Clouston said.