Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) celebrates a goal. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
OTTAWA -- The defending Stanley Cup champions have had all sorts of problems with injuries to their defense this spring, but on Friday night at Canadian Tire Centre, two blue liners inflicted some pain of their own.
Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin scored their first goals of the playoffs as the Penguins built a lead and then hung on to defeat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 at Canadian Tire Centre.
The victory evened the Eastern Conference Final at 2-2, with Game 5 set for Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby also added a goal and an assist in the victory, hours before which Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan talked about the need for more scoring throughout the lineup.
"I'm not sure if you asked me before the game if those were two of the guys that came to mind," Sullivan said of Maatta and Dumoulin after the win. "But certainly we're thrilled for those guys and for our team. It's hard to generate offence in today's game, in the absence of defenseman getting involved, whether it be off the rush or the offensive zone itself.
"I thought our defensemen did as good a job as we've seen in these playoffs tonight along that offensive blue line, just becoming an option and making good decisions with the puck, helping us sustain an offensive attack. That's going to be an important component of our game moving forward."
The Penguins, already without top scoring defensemen Kris Letang and Justin Schultz, lost another blue liner late in the first period when Bobby Ryan ran over Chad Ruhwedel. Sullivan said Rudwedel suffered a concussion on the play.
Playing his first playoff game since leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup last spring, Matt Murray made 24 saves.
"I just tried to approach it like any other game," said Murray, who suffered an injury in the warmup before the first game of the playoffs. "I've had to come back from injury before this year, and basically tried not to think about it, just kind of jump in and just play.
"The team made it pretty easy for me. They did a really good job and blocked a lot of shots, especially late. It was a really good overall team effort."
The Senators trailed 1-0 at the end of one period and 3-0 until Clarke MacArthur put them on the board at 18:22 of the second.
Tom Pyatt made it a one-goal game when he deflected an Erik Karlsson shot between Murray's legs at 14:59 of the third, but despite a furious push that included Kyle Turris hitting the outside of the post with 16 seconds left, they could not tie it.
"We knew they were going to have a better game than they did in Game 3. Give them some credit," said Senators goalie Craig Anderson, who made 32 saves. "We didn't play as well as we wanted to, but at the end of the day we were still in the game."
Dumoulin, who had just one goal in 70 games this season, scored the game-winner just past the midway mark of the second. His shot from the left-wing point was going wide when it hit the skate of Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf and went in the open side.
"It felt good to be on the other end of one of those," Dumoulin said. "It's a fortunate bounce. I forgot who came out in the lane, but he did a good job. I was just trying to put a puck back door and hope for some luck. Fortunately, it went in off Dion's skate."
Senators coach Guy Boucher was not surprised with the strong start by the Penguins.
"They played with urgency, which was to be expected," Boucher said. "Stanley Cup champions, they bounce back in every series.
"I found that we fumbled a lot of pucks. We didn't look sharp at all for the first two periods. We gave a push, we always do. In the end, their third goal is a puck that bounces off our skate and goes in our net. At the end there, we hit the post. We could have tied it there.
"They were the better team tonight, for two periods, and they deserved the game. We deserved two games, and we got two games, they deserved two games, and it's 2-2.
"That's how it is."
NOTES: Penguins G Matt Murray replaced Marc-Andre Fleury, who had started every other Pittsburgh game in the playoffs but was pulled after allowing four goals on nine shots in Game 3. ... With a goal and an assist, Penguin C Sidney Crosby now has 18 points (10 goals) in 12 career playoff games at Canadian Tire Centre. ... Senators LW Alex Burrows missed his first game of the playoffs with a lower-body injury. ... Senators LW Tommy Wingels returned to the lineup to replace Burrows. ... Penguins C Evgeni Malkin played his 140th playoff game, tying him with former Penguin Jaromir Jagr for the franchise lead.