Pittsburgh 2, Ottawa 1
Time for the favourites to show why they're the favourites once more. San Jose, Detroit, New Jersey and Pittsburgh have all come back after a surprise game 1 loss to their lower-ranked counterparts to prove why they're the best. And Sidney Crosby was leading the charge for Pittsburgh in a bruiser of a game to show the Sens why he's a champion.
Is there anything that this guy can't do on the ice? If there is, we haven't seen it yet. He scored a goal, picked up an assist, played keep away with Spezza, gave some hard hits and even had a save on the night, helping out a sprawling Fleury in the third period off a shot that almost squeaked its way over the blue line. That save was huge, because that would have been the nail in the coffin on that one. It's hard to regain momentum off a goal that late in the game, no matter who you are. But that didn't happen.
The Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back extremely well after things got off with a bang with a goal from Regin 18 seconds into the game. It was a hard-fought game, with bodies and sticks flying everywhere. The pace of the game was incredible, but it wasn't far off from becoming a full-blown Slap Shot style thug fest.
Andy Sutton did exactly what I feared he would do. He delivered his signature WWE style body smash against the boards, where, instead of getting his shoulder down and planting a football style tackle on his opponent, he leaps into the air, all 6-6, 250 pounds of him, and just crushes them. He's a good defensive player and I love that he has presence on the ice, but I can't get behind this bone crushing move. He delivered a big one on Leopold last night and I still cringe now when I see it in replays. Leopold looked dead. Really. He just fell like a rag doll, face planted, body sprawled, and I swear that they could have put a chalk outline around him. It was awful. Can you imagine what his family and friends felt when they saw him go down like that? What about his significant other? I'd be calling the police if I was that woman.
For lack of anything else, you have to say that this was a spirited game. Both teams wanted it really badly. They fought and they fought hard. They fought so hard that I would be surprised if any of them can walk today. I have to say that I wasn't happy about the big hit on Zack Smith at the end of the second period which threw open the zamboni doors. That was clearly antagonizing with someone who had nothing to do with the thuggery of that period. Glad he held his own, but you know, as Cherry said, he's one of those good Alberta boys and made of tougher stuff. Orpik punching Spezza was also one of those moves that didn't impress me.
All the rough stuff aside, there were some impressive performances and some real duds too. Crosby goes without saying as being the best player on the ice period. Elliott delivered another solid performance despite the loss, Fleury's thrown off whatever was left of his jitters, Regin is living up to his designation as the Great Dane and Karlsson looks like he's been playing in the playoffs his whole life.
Honourable other mentions for Pittsburgh includes Leopold for even getting off the ice on his own power after the Sutton hit. Malkin's still doing his thing well and he seems even more fired up when he gets to partner with Crosby.
The duds? It's hard to be a Spezza fan at the moment. He's a good player, but he's prone to streakiness, bad giveaways on high risk plays and let's face it, a little bit of laziness. He loses his man often enough when he's made to play defense and when he's not on a hot streak, it doesn't look like he cares. But this is the Stanley Cup playoffs and his team is playing the defending champions. If this isn't enough to make you care, well, what the hell is?
The series is tied now and is going to make its way to Ottawa. I hope that the guys can pull it together and make a real quality show at home. I'll be there in red, screaming my heart out for my team and I hope that they give me plenty to cheer about. I hope that Alfie shows why Scotiabank Place is his house and that Spezza snaps out of it. I also hope that the refs are responsible and stop some of this unnecessary extra curricular activity. I don't want the game to get soft, but the low blows and face washes aren't what fans want and doesn't make for quality hockey.
I also hope that the underdogs make another comeback to take another game. It helps to keep things interesting. Because nothing is less interesting in the finals than a 4 game total sweep.