OTTAWA (AP) -Even faced with the constant attention of the Ottawa Senators' top pair of defensemen, Sidney Crosby keeps finding ways to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Crosby had a goal and an assist, Evgeni Malkin scored his third playoff goal, and Pittsburgh beat Ottawa 4-2 on Sunday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference series.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves and Alexei Ponikarovsky and Bill Guerin also scored for the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, who won their second in a row following a 5-4 loss to the Senators in the series opener.
Crosby raised his playoff total to seven points in three games despite being consistently covered by Ottawa defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips.
``It's a challenge every night in the playoffs,' Crosby said. ``There's not a lot of space and I think it's important that you come ready to compete, especially for me individually. I know that playing against those two guys on defense it's going to be difficult so I've got to be prepared to compete and find ways. It's not always going to happen but I've got to be ready to compete, so that's all I've been trying to do.'
Mike Fisher and Matt Cullen scored power-play goals for Ottawa. Brian Elliott stopped 20 shots.
``We're still in it,' said Fisher, who tied it at 1 early in the second. ``I mean, we've got another game at home here to even the series. We've got to focus on that game and nothing beyond and nothing about the past two games, just do what we've got to do to be successful.'
Game 4 is Tuesday night in Ottawa.
Malkin restored Pittsburgh's one-goal lead at 2-1 in the second not long after Fisher drew the Senators even with a power-play goal 1:53 into the period.
The 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff MVP, Malkin jumped on a loose puck beside Elliott and fired into an open net at 5:57 after the Ottawa goalie failed to poke it away.
Maxim Talbot drew an assist on the play, pushing the puck away from rookie Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson as the two raced toward the goal to recover the puck after it got away from Malkin on a rush into the Senators' zone.
``With Geno you know he's never going to make the easy play,' Talbot said. ``He's always going to create something out of nothing and that's why I drove the net. I knew he could put the puck there and I hustled down and got to the puck first and put it on net, and Malkin did a great job with the rebound.'
Crosby, who had five points in the first two games in Pittsburgh, made it a 3-1 with 44.4 seconds left in the second. The Penguins' 22-year-old captain carried the puck across the goalmouth from the right corner, holding onto it before putting a shot over a sprawled Elliott for his first power-play goal of the playoffs.
``I just tried to take it across the net and was able to hold on to it for a little bit and find an opening there,' Crosby said.
Crosby added his seventh point, his fifth assist, when Guerin's breakaway goal increased the lead to three 4:27 into the third.
Ottawa coach Cory Clouston didn't question his players' effort.
``I don't think there were lazy plays,' Clouston said. ``There were a couple of mistakes, for sure. It's a game of mistakes. We only gave up nine or 10 scoring chances and just over 20 shots. We had our opportunities. They made their mistakes, they made good of their opportunities - to me, that was the biggest difference.'
Fisher gave the Senators' fans some hope when he converted Ottawa's first power-play opportunity early in the second to tie it at 1. Cullen's goal at 12:58 of the third also came with the man advantage, though it only drew the Senators within two.
Ponikarovsky quieted the Scotiabank Place crowd with his first goal 1:17 in. The former Toronto Maple Leafs left wing carried the puck along the right side before stopping in the faceoff circle, holding off for a moment while Karlsson past him along the ice before firing a wrist shot past Elliott.
The Senators thought they had scored the tying goal with 40.8 seconds remaining in the first. After a video review, referee Eric Furlatt waved his arms and announced, ``the puck was kicked in - no goal' to the dismay of the crowd. Repeated replays had already shown Regin kicking the puck with his right skate between Fleury's pads after Jason Spezza's centering pass from behind the net landed at his feet.
NOTES: Brad Thiessen backed up Fleury for the second game in a row. ... Penguins D Jordan Leopold did not travel to Ottawa. Leopold is day-to-day after he was knocked out of Friday night's game on a hit by Senators D Andy Sutton. Veteran D Jay McKee replaced Leopold in the lineup.
The Associated Press News Service
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