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Pittsburgh powers to 2-0 lead: Take your hat off to Sidney

Pen pots three in a row to put chokehold on Sens

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PITTSBURGH -- Ottawa's star is playing anything like one.

Pittsburgh's star is being The Star, and Sidney Crosby is a big reason why the Penguins already have the Senators in a very precarious playoff position.

Crosby scored three goals in the opening 21 minutes 15 seconds for his second career playoff hat trick as the Penguins held off two Ottawa comebacks to beat the Senators 4-3 Friday night in Game 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals.

Ottawa is down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series to the one Eastern Conference team no one wants to trail. And it's partly because the Senators are letting the one player they cannot afford to beat them do exactly that -- and at the expense of their own top star, Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

Karlsson, fighting through an Achilles injury that occurred against Pittsburgh and put him out for much of the season, was beaten on two of Crosby's goals and committed the penalty that led to the superstar's power-play goal.

"We finished pretty strong but we started poorly and some of the blame is on me," Karlsson said. "(I'm) struggling a little bit, and it is what it is. I don't have the answer to it myself. I've got to figure my body out and obviously I'm not feeling or playing the same way I am used to."

'We finished pretty strong but we started poorly and some of the blame is on me'

--Ottawa D-man Erik Karlsson

Karlsson and the Senators need to figure it out in a hurry, too. They are 0-7 in their playoff history when trailing 2-0 in a series, and now they're down by that margin to a star-laden team that was easily the conference's best during the regular season and one that already has 33 goals in eight playoff games.

"I don't think there's any doubt he's fighting it a bit," said defenceman Chris Phillips of Karlsson.

The Senators are hoping all-star forward Jason Spezza will be ready for Game 3 as he recovers from a back injury that put him out for the conference quarter-finals against Montreal.

It was Crosby's night as he dominated play throughout the game.

"I think the way he plays with so much speed, so much passion, everybody follows," said teammate Brooks Orpik.

Brenden Morrow had the other Penguins goal, and it proved to be a big one that made it 4-2. Tomas Vokoun made 19 saves for the win. Kyle Turris, Colin Greening and Jean-Gabriel Pageau replied for Ottawa.

Pageau scored his fourth playoff goal 2:01 into the third period to get the Senators back to within a goal, but Vokoun -- who took over for former Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury in the first-round Islanders series and hasn't given up the job after four games -- shut out Ottawa the rest of the way.

Senators coach Paul MacLean blamed the poor start, not the inability to cash in further during a third period largely dominated by Ottawa.

"Catch-up hockey is losing hockey," he said. "Giving up three goals to Crosby is losing hockey, too."

Crosby, who missed a quarter of the season with a broken jaw, was the difference after not scoring in the Penguins' Game 1 victory Wednesday, when post-season scoring leader Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist.

"You don't get those opportunities all the time, especially in the playoffs, to score three," Crosby said. "It's a great feeling. But there's still lots of hockey, so you don't want to get too caught up in it."

Malkin assisted on Crosby's third goal Friday and now has a league-leading 11 assists in the playoffs, including at least one in all eight Penguins games.

Crosby, who was on pace to cruise to the NHL scoring title before breaking his jaw, gave Pittsburgh the lead just 3:16 into the game by skating through three Senators, including a masterful fake to elude Karlsson before beating Craig Anderson with a wrister at the bottom of the circle for his 100th career playoff point.

Asked afterward what happened on the play, an incredulous Karlsson replied, "Are you blind?"

Crosby reached his 100th career playoff point in 75 career games, making him the fifth-fastest to do so.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2013 C1

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