Can Lightning strike twice?

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

Yeah, it's probably still a bit too early. We're going to have to watch a while more.

But think about it for a second ... isn't it possible we've seen this movie before?

Like, a year ago, maybe?

Sidney Crosby playing the part of Martin St. Louis? Evgeni Malkin as Vincent Lecavalier? Jordan Staal, a young Brad Richards? Sergei Gonchar in the role of Dan Boyle?

And Marc-Andre Fleury as .... John Grahame???

Okay, so the casting isn't perfect. Pittsburgh is a young man's Tampa Bay, if not exactly a poor man's. Either way, there are similarities between this Penguins team and the makeup of that Lightning club the Senators disposed of last year in Round 1.

Both teams, strong up front. Both with bluelines boasting an offensive star and a bunch of relative unknowns.

And both with a big question mark between the pipes.

The main difference is Fleury's age. He's 22 and is supposed to have a pretty bright future. Grahame was 31 and on the downside of a career that never amounted to much.

Otherwise, John Tortorella might have been a little more forgiving after the Senators scored 13 goals in winning Games 4 and 5.

Remember his classic rant? "A save would be nice," the Lighting coach said after a 5-2 loss pushed his boys to the brink "They're a good hockey team ... it's just deflating to see 17 shots and four goals in the net? Let's call a spade a spade. Johnny is trying like hell, but I'm a little tired of the 25% rule."

On Wednesday, the Senators chased Fleury with six goals on 36 shots. What's that, the 17% rule?

Yesterday, however, the Penguins did what they hadn't the night before. They rallied around their goalie. To a man, they insisted the 6-3, Game 1 loss wasn't his fault.

"He stood on his head," said Sidney Crosby, who failed to mention that Fleury also fell on his head when bumped by Ottawa's Christoph Schu(be-do-be-do)bert in the first period.

Coach Michel Therrien, no Tortorella yet, will go back to Fleury for Game 2 tomorrow.

"You could tell both goalies were nervous early on (Wednesday)," Therrien said after practice at Scotiabank Place. "Marc-Andre really settled down and made some key saves. The players didn't give him a real chance to win this hockey game."

A case can be made that Fleury should have prevented at least three of the six goals. On the first one by Andrej Meszaros, he was out of position after failing to smother a loose puck. The second, by Chris Kelly, went through him. And Mike Comrie was left with a tap-in on the sixth. The set-up by Peter Schaefer was a pass that went right through the crease.

Yet Penguins players spoke as though the outcome wouldn't have been different had Martin Brodeur been tending their goal.

"(The Senators) are a great hockey team with a lot of character," said Gary Roberts. "We didn't match it. The guys in front of (Fleury) weren't very good."

Said backup goalie Jocelyn Thibeault: "Obviously, Marc-Andre was not to blame. I thought he looked real sharp ... he made a lot of good saves to keep us in the game. I think he's going to be fine."

Me, I wouldn't go that far. I'm going to grab some popcorn and watch a little more, but I'm pretty sure I've seen this movie before. If it ends with Ottawa winning in five, then losing next round to Buffalo, well, it's Groundhog Day all over again.

To the point

Senators D Tom Preissing was quick to point out a couple of things after yesterday's practice. He was quick to point out that a visiting person with a moustache just stepped on the Senators logo in the middle of the dressing room floor. That can't happen again. He was quick to point out that goal in Game 1 was not his first in NHL post-season play. In 22 playoff games with the San Jose Sharks, he had one goal and seven assists. And he was also quick to point out it felt extra special putting one in at Scotiabank Place in Game 1. "In my first playoff game, against Edmonton, there were probably about 100,000 people watching, as opposed to (Wednesday) when there were a few million or whatever it was," said Preissing. "It was great atmosphere. It was probably almost as good as playing Montreal here, especially when we got up with a big lead." ... A deft deke by Chris Neil on a breakaway that gave Ottawa its fifth goal Wednesday shouldn't have come as any surprise to his teammates. Neil said he used his "Juice Boy" move, stickhandling to his backhand and flipping a shot past Fleury. For the uninitiated, Juice Boy is a practice-ending shootout, where the loser serves up Gatorade to the winners after practice. "I think I've only been Juice Boy once this year," Neil said. "That's a good sign."

This and that

Daniel Alfredsson didn't hear the crowd chanting "Alfie, Alfie, Alfie" as he skated to the box after his third period tussle with Brooks Orpik in Game 1. "My wife told me afterwards," he said. "Obviously, it feels great." Certainly must beat getting booed like he does when the Leafs are in town ... Surrounded and grilled by some journalistic big-hitters yesterday was Anton Volchenkov, who on Wednesday was spectacular in his own solid way. He was asked about shot blocking techniques. About his father Alexei, who played for the Red Army. About growing up in Russia. About all sorts of things. And, while he is making progress in learning a new language after five years in North America, Volchenkov wasn't very quotable. "The media ... so many questions," he told teammates afterwards. "I don't have answers." ... Mario Lemieux was surrounded by an entourage that included family members as he stepped off a service elevator and walked -- straight, tall and with a very serious disposition -- to the Penguins coach's room after Game 1. From superstar to team owner, the man has always carried the presence of royalty.


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