'If we get into an offensive contest we can give them the series right now,' says Ottawa coach Guy Boucher
They have limited the offensively gifted Pittsburgh Penguins to two goals.
They have gone 1-1 on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champions to start best-of-seven Eastern Conference final.
Now all the Ottawa Senators want going into Game 3 on Wednesday at Canadian Tire Centre is more.
"It's a tight series, and we grabbed a win on the road," defenceman Marc Methot said Tuesday before the Senators flew home. "I mean, had you asked us if we'd be in this position or we'd enjoy being in this position a couple months back, I'm pretty sure we'd take it.
"We have an opportunity now to get home and play in front of our great fans, and the building will be rocking. That's something that we're looking forward to."
Ottawa's defence was pretty much as advertised in a 2-1 overtime win Saturday and a 1-0 loss Monday. Holding opponents in check, keeping them away from their sweet spots, getting strong goaltending from Craig Anderson are all big parts of the team's identity.
Pittsburgh surged in the third period of Game 2 and controlled play but struggled to create key chances in tight.
"It's hard to get to the net against these guys," Penguins centre Nick Bonino said. "They have five guys in the house."
Ottawa had to scramble to hold fast, with Phil Kessel's deciding goal coming in the third when Anderson said he caught an edge with his skate and wasn't able to move to his left to stop the puck.
On offence, scoring a goal a game probably isn't going to suffice for the Senators moving ahead. That became even clearer Monday, when Ottawa had a stretch in the second and third periods of nearly the equivalent of a full period without a shot.
"I think we learned a few things," centre Tom Pyatt said. "We didn't generate a lot of offence. We played a solid defensive game, kept them on the outside. But I think they spent a little too much time in our zone, and, obviously, we need a better offensive effort for Game 3."
The Senators want to do that without trying to morph into an offensive juggernaut or get into a track meet with the fleet Penguins.
"I want to push, but the Stanley Cup champion is on the other side there," coach Guy Boucher said. "We're not going to stomp all over them. If we get into an offensive contest, well, we can give them the series right now.
"We've got to know what we are, and we've got to know what we're able to do. This is as hard as these guys have pushed all year, and that's why the two teams are going toe-to-toe, and it's one-goal games, because both teams are defending well, both teams are trying to create what they can."
Kessel's goal came after TV cameras caught him showing immense frustration on the bench and barking at teammates, including linemate Evgeni Malkin, in an animated way.
While the Senators were disappointed that the Penguins were able to channel that emotion into a winning goal, they would be happy to keep rattling Pittsburgh.
"Anytime your opponent is going to get frustrated, that's a good thing," Methot said. "They still won the game ... they ended up scoring and it was assisted by the guy he was yelling at (Malkin).
"It's hard to say it's working against you. I think anytime you're showing a little emotion, that's a good thing. And at the same time, sure, you want to frustrate your opponent. I think we're doing that with how tight defensively we've been playing, and that's also a positive."
Malkin suggested there won't be any carryover to Game 3 as far as the Penguins being frustrated, and that the Senators' smothering style did not drive a wedge between him and Kessel.
"Sometimes we lose our minds on a couple of shifts, but after we get a little bit of rest, a commercial break, we talk to each other and we start playing (harmoniously)."
Three newly injured Pittsburgh players travelled to Ottawa. Wingers Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust and defenceman Justin Schultz all have upper-body injuries and are day-to-day, coach Mike Sullivan said.
Hornqvist was a late scratch Monday after leaving the warmup early. Rust left the game after taking a big hit from the Senators' Dion Phaneuf, and Schultz left after he fell into the end boards.
For Ottawa, winger Viktor Stalberg (lower-body injury) could return as early as Wednesday, and defenceman Mark Borowiecki (lower-body injury) is also getting close.