Great ones seize moment

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

It is one of those plays the good ones, the really good ones, seem to make.

A hard diagonal pass, the puck off the ice ...

"At first I thought it was too high," said Pittsburgh Penguins winger Mark Recchi, the man who sent the puck toward the Ottawa Senators net.

"But great players make bad passes look good ... and he did it right there."

Sidney Crosby, the recipient of Recchi's pass, directed it high into the Senators net from just outside the post. From eight feet away, Crosby got his stick on Recchi's pass and deflected it into the high corner before Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery could react.

Crosby's second goal of this series was the winner at 11:44 of the third period, giving the Penguins a split here and sending them home for tonight's Game 3 able to forget their flat Game 1 or their miserable second period yesterday that threatened to leave them in a 2-0 hole.

HIT SOME PART OF STICK

"I don't know if it hit the shaft or the blade (of his stick)," said Crosby afterward. "I tried to go to the far post. The puck was in the air a bit. I just tried to get my stick on it. I don't know what it hit."

It hit his stick, it hit the back of the net, it hit the Senators, who still have never been up 2-0 in a series, right in the psyche.

Consistency has always been an elusive partner for the Senators, especially in the playoffs. After an impeccable first game in which everything came easy, the Senators twice had leads yesterday but could not hang onto them.

The Penguins escaped yesterday despite an awful, penalty-riddled second period.

"A stinker," said Recchi.

That they could win despite a middle 20 minutes like that says a lot about them.

Or the Senators.

The goal was Crosby's first even-strength point against the Senators this season, giving them a 4-3 win in a game they tried hard to give away.

They had led 1-0 after the first on a power-play goal by Ryan Whitney on which Crosby drew the second assist.

But they hurtled over the boundaries of discipline in the second period, handing the Senators four power-play chances.

Two plays stood out.

Penguins winger Colby Armstrong took a pass, got a step on a Senators defender and hurtled toward the Ottawa net. Emery stopped the shot and then was bowled over by Armstrong, who made no pretense of trying to avoid crashing into the goaltender.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson scored on that power play to make it 2-1 for the Senators.

With two minutes left in the second period, Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu took a stupid roughing penalty. While standing over Ottawa's Mike Comrie, he reached down and grabbed him by the face.

Dumb.

The Penguins killed that one off, but it was significant nonetheless because in that crucial few shifts after being scored on, the Penguins were on their heels and couldn't do anything to try and get some momentum back before the period was out.

"We were running around a lot and we weren't disciplined. That's not characteristic of our team," said Crosby. "We put ourselves in a hole. We weren't happy with the penalties we were getting. We knew we were hurting ourselves."

"That's a recipe to lose a game," said Penguins coach Michel Therrien, "the way we played in the second period."

But one thing the Penguins have done all year is regroup.

They tied the game, fell behind, tied it again.

Through it all was Crosby, bouncing off people, taking hits.

"He was determined," said Recchi. "He was getting good back pressure, playing down low in our end. He's been a winner all his life and there's a reason why. He finds a way to elevate his game."

Then there was that puck, a few inches off the ice.

"I saw him all the way," said Recchi of that pass on the winner. "I was just hoping I wouldn't screw it up, is all."

It was one of those plays the really good ones seem to make.

They seem to make them at a big moment, too.


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