PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby scored a goal, prevented one and his deft stickhandling led to Kris Letang's winner late in the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins rebounded to beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on Friday night to even the Eastern Conference first-round series at a game apiece.
Several minutes after Crosby slid on his stomach across the crease to punch away Anton Volchenkov's shot as it lay inches from the goal line, Crosby began cycling the puck by himself behind the Ottawa net. Looking for an opening to pass or to dart out and take a shot, he crossed the goalie trapezoid three times before finally carrying the puck out and, sliding to the ice, feeding it to Letang at the right point.
Letang's shot with 4:12 left beat goalie Brian Elliott, who made 29 saves but didn't get any support after Peter Regin scored on the Senators' first shot 18 seconds into the game. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury shook off that goal and a poor first game to turn aside Ottawa's next 19 shots.
The Stanley Cup champion Penguins, staring at a daunting 2-0 series deficit if they lost a second successive home game, will travel to Ottawa for Game 3 on Sunday night.
The Senators, emboldened by their surprise 5-4 victory in Game 1, got off to the best-possible start — and the worst for Fleury. On the Senators' first shift, Jason Spezza controlled the puck along the boards and got it out to Regin, whose shot sailed past Fleury's outstretched glove and into the net.
With Penguins backup goalie Brent Johnson out with flu-like symptoms, coach Dan Bylsma had to wonder about Fleury's confidence — already a concern because of his shaky Game 1. But Fleury, 9-2 in his playoff career when following up a game in which he allowed four goals or more, settled down after that to shut out the Senators the rest of the way.
The Penguins tied it slightly more than eight minutes later whens Crosby — held scoreless on two shots in the opener — put in a backhander from close range off a rebound of Chris Kunitz's shot.
Crosby's play of the game might not have been the goal he scored or the one he set up, but the one he stopped.
Ottawa nearly took the lead with 9:13 remaining when Volchenkov's long wrist shot deflected off Fleury and was skittering toward the goal line before a sliding Crosby punched it away. TV replays didn't show conclusively if the puck would have crossed the line if Crosby hadn't touched it.
The game became much more physical than the opener after Ottawa defenseman Andy Sutton leveled defenseman Jordan Leopold with an elbow hit late in the first period, causing Leopold to lay on the ice for several minutes. He didn't return to the game, although Sutton was not penalized.
That play led — which led to several minutes of booing by the crowd of 17,132 — led to Penguins forward Max Talbot fighting center Zack Smith after the first period ended. Talbot and Jarkko Ruutu drew roughing penalties after getting into a brief skirmish in the second period.
The Senators played without forward Milan Michalek, who is out for the remainder of the playoffs with a torn left knee ligament after reinjuring the knee Wednesday. They were already missing another of their top six forwards, Alex Kovalev, with a similar injury.
The Penguins scratched Ruslan Fedotenko. He scored seven goals in the playoffs last season. … Pittsburgh had 10 shots in the first period, compared to four in Game 1 and finished with 31. … The Penguins' victory assures there will be another game at 49-year-old Mellon Arena, which they will vacate after this season. Game 5 will be there Thursday night, following Game 4 in Ottawa on Tuesday night.