Penguins rebound to tie unpredictable series with Senators: Arthur

OTTAWA—Among the mess — uncalled slashes, accidental head shots, shoving and elbows, shot blocks and headlocks — one thing tipped this game. Sidney Crosby was back, and Pittsburgh was back. The Penguins superstar had been relatively undistinguished since his second-round concussion and subsequent headfirst crash into the boards, his goal in Game 3’s blowout notwithstanding. He had four goals and seven assists in his first seven playoff games; he had one goal and three assists in the next six. People wondered; nobody knew. He’s Sidney Crosby.In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final, with Pittsburgh losing another defenceman and Ottawa all but down to three useful lines, it was Crosby who led the way early, Crosby who assisted on the game’s first goal, Crosby who scored the second. The Penguins are living and dying with their stars — Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel have 27 of this team’s 47 playoff goals, and four of six in the series — and in a 3-2 Game 4 win, they lived.“If we were losing guys, there’s no way we could compete against those guys,” said Senators coach Guy Boucher, who had several players go to the dressing room and return as the game went on. “We know their depth, we know they’re a quality team, and the star power they’ve got. They’ve got the most star power in the league. If we would lose guys, we wouldn’t be able to compete against them. That’s why our players are in the lineup, and that’s why we’re able to do so.”He’s likely right. The Penguins changed goalies in this game, and Matt Murray was good enough to win; in the dying seconds Ottawa’s Kyle Turris hit the outside of the post and the Penguins had to sell out to block three shots, and they held on. But while the Malkin line was very good it was Crosby, who had a game-high five shots on goal, who drove this game.“He was shooting the puck early — any time he had it on his stick he was flying with it,” said winger Chris Kunitz, who was reunited with Crosby in place of the injured Bryan Rust. “I think you know right from the start that he’s got it going. You want to give him the puck wherever he is, and let him do his thing. When we need a big goal, he finds a way on the power play to get it. He gets us on the board early finding Olli (Maatta) on the far side of the ice with his vision. I think when your leaders step up like that it really trickles down, and lets everybody know that we’ve got to make another-level push to win a game.”Article Continued Below“It starts with our captain,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. “I think he leads by example, and I thought he had one of his best games tonight, Sid.”This series could still tip in any direction at any time. The Penguins lost another defenceman, Chad Ruhwedel, who was being pressed into service for his 73rd NHL game at age 27 because the Penguins were already missing Kris Letang and Justin Schultz. The Senators are oh for their last 24 on the power play, and can’t string two good games together. The series is tied 2-2, and god knows how this thing ends.“I mean, we deserved two games, and we got two games,” said Boucher. “They deserved two games, and it’s 2-2. That’s how it is.”