Getty ImagesGame 4 began looking like it was going to be another one of those games for the Pittsburgh Penguins. You know those games by now, right? Sloppy play. Turnovers. Questions about their goaltending.
It started off just 2:29 into the game when Milan Michalek's shorthanded goal had Scotiabank Place buzzing. Later, after Kyle Turris pounced on a puck during a scramble in front of Tomas Vokoun's crease to give Ottawa a 2-1 lead -- and the Senators killed both power plays they handed the Penguins -- things were looking promising after one period. Craig Anderson was playing like he did in Game 3, making 15 saves in the first period to deny a flying Pittsburgh offense.
"We had to make sure we played the right way," said Kris Letang to NBC Sports Network's Brian Engblom about the Penguins' adjustments between periods. "We were a little on our heels ... We had to regroup."
Regroup they did, and in a matter of 40 seconds the game flipped on its head.
Chris Kunitz and Jarome Iginla scored 40 seconds apart early in the second period to kill any momentum the Senators thought they had after Turris' late first period goal. But the red light behind Anderson was just getting warmed up. The Penguins would add four more in the opening 9:53 of the third period, with James Neal and Iginla each finishing with a pair of goals, en route to a 7-3 victory and a 3-1 series lead.
Three of those four goals game in a 1:45 span, with Pascal Dupuis (shorthanded) and Sidney Crosby scoring scoring just 31 seconds apart:
Entering Game 4, Ottawa had outscored its opponents in the playoffs 14-1 in the third period. That offense shriveled up in the final 20 minutes and made way for the Penguins. And after Crosby's goal, Anderson was pulled for the second time in three games.
"[We tried to] put pucks at his feet and try to get the rebound, and it actually worked," Letang said.
Facing elimination Friday night in Pittsburgh, Game 4 might have been Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson's final home game. When the final buzzer sounded, he grabbed the puck and skated off the ice for possibly the final time in front of Senators fans.
"We don't have much going for us right now," said Alfredsson. "Maybe that's the way we like it." When asked if the Senators have a shot at coming back on the Penguins, Alfredsson said (via NHL.com's Erin Nicks), "Probably not. [Pittsburgh's] depth and our play right now … it doesn't look good," before adding the team doesn't plan on quitting.
The Senators have a shot, but only if Good Craig Anderson shows up. The Craig Anderson that helped carry them through the injuries and into the playoffs. The Craig Anderson that would have been a Vezina Trophy candidate had he not been injured. The Craig Anderson who was superb in Game 3, stopping 49 shots during a double overtime win.
That Craig Anderson.
So which one will we see in Game 5?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy