In the early moments of Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Ottawa, the massive winger finally gave the Penguins some of the goal-scoring spark they were expecting. He started the scoring just 1:17 into the first period when he ripped a shot past Brian Elliott from the top of the right wing circle, giving the Penguins an early lead on their way to a 4-2 win, helping them take a one-game lead (2-1) in the series.
It was just his third goal with the Penguins, and his first in 11 games.
If they're going to advance beyond the opening round and embark on another long postseason run, they're going to need not only more goal-scoring like this from Ponikarovsky, but also more of the aggressive forechecking they displayed throughout games 2 and 3. Over the past two months, and for most of the second half of the season, the Penguins have been hit-or-miss when it comes to playing the type of hockey (dominant puck possession) they played during last year's Stanley Cup run.
It appears as if they've finally rediscovered that style of play.
After struggling down the stretch, and looking sluggish in the playoff opener -- a 5-4 loss at Mellon Arena -- Pittsburgh has started to control the puck more and display better defensive zone coverage. Over the past two games, the Penguins have outshot the Senators by a 55-42 margin, while outscoring them 6-3.
The one bright spot for the Senators offensively has been the play 24-year-old forward Peter Regin. He didn't score a goal on Sunday (he had one each in the first two games) but did help set up Mike Fisher's power play goal early in the second period, and had a number of quality shots and scoring chances throughout the game. He's been their most dangerous -- and most consistent -- player in the offensive zone.
Senators coach Cory Clouston managed to get his shutdown pairing of Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips against Sidney Crosby during most of his shifts, limiting the Penguins' captain to just two shots on goal throughout the game. The one time he didn't get that matchup, however, was during a power play late in the second period when Crosby won a battle for a loose puck in the corner, drove to the front of the net, and beat Elliott for his second goal in as many games, giving Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.
Bill Guerin and Evgeni Malkin also added goals for the Penguins in the win.