James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Penguins break through against Senators, tie series with Game 2 win


You can understand if the Pittsburgh Penguins were frustrated during much of Game 2 against the Ottawa Senators, and Phil Kessel certainly showed it.

But, to their credit, they just kept hammering away as the Senators seemed content to “turtle” in their own zone, failing to register a shot on goal through about a period’s worth of game time. Kessel finally beat a game Craig Anderson on an extra-effort attempt, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win as the Penguins tied the series 1-1.

The Senators might have been accused of a “rope-a-dope” technique when it came to trying to counterattack, but they weren’t just leaning on the ropes when it came to the actual physical stuff. Dion Phaneuf delivered some huge hits, including one that possibly injured Bryan Rust, while Justin Schultz may also be hurt thanks to an innocuous Mike Hoffman check.

However you dole out the credits for hits, it was a nasty one at times, including when Evgeni Malkin, Kyle Turris and others were involved in a scuffle in the dying moments.

Marc-Andre Fleury grabbed his 10th career playoff shutout, making 23 saves in uneven waves from the Senators. It will be interesting to see if Guy Boucher deploys a similar strategy against Pittsburgh as the Eastern Conference Final goes along or if he’ll try to take advantage of the growing number of injuries for the Pens’ defense corps.

The narratives could have revolved around the Senators frustrating the Penguins and getting away with a … questionable style of play. They certainly did frustrate the Pens and almost escaped with a 2-0 series lead.

Pittsburgh got that key win, however, so the series will shift tied 1-1 as Games 3 and 4 will take place in Ottawa.

Game 3 takes place on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App. (Stream online here)

Video: Phil Kessel channels anger into 1-0 goal for Penguins


Much was made of Phil Kessel‘s unfiltered rage during the second period of Game 2, and how it might have been directed at Evgeni Malkin.

For a while, it felt like his anger was symbolic of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ greater feelings, as they couldn’t seem to break through against the Ottawa Senators despite controlling virtually every aspect of about 20 minutes of game time.

Kessel might bark a lot, but he showed some bite in scoring the 1-0 goal. Check out that precious, rare tally in the video above.

Penguins – Senators is getting nasty, and Phaneuf’s been a big part of it


Through two periods of Game 2, Dion Phaneuf has been credited with four hits against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Whatever the number might be, the Ottawa Senators defenseman is making his presence felt.

Of course, there’s also plenty of debate regarding whether his hits have been clean or not. You’ll see plenty of discussion about Phaneuf “leaving his feet” or “headhunting,” depending upon whom you ask.

You can see his biggest hit of the night (so far?) on Bryan Rust above, which seemed to hurt Rust. There have been complaints about other checks, including one on Jake Guentzel.

But there’s no real doubt that he’s making his presence felt to the extent that it feels like a flashback to his high-impact early days with the Calgary Flames … and the Penguins would be wise to keep their heads up.

They’ve certainly revealed their nasty side at times, with Phil Kessel seen livid on the Penguins bench and plenty of Pittsburgh players throwing hits. In fact, the Penguins are credited with more checks (34-23) so far. Scott Wilson‘s really been involved, throwing seven.

The Penguins aren’t being wallflowers here, but the Senators will gladly trade hits and barbs with Pittsburgh instead of trading scoring chances.

The game enters the third period 0-0, so a lot of drama could still be on the way.

You can watch Game 2 on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App. (Stream online here)

Injuries keep piling up for Penguins with Rust, Schultz hurt in Game 2


Not long after the Pittsburgh Penguins (at least temporarily) lost Bryan Rust after a huge hit by Dion Phaneuf, the team might be down another key defenseman in Justin Schultz.

Schultz seemed to favor his shoulder after awkwardly falling into the boards following a hit by Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman.

The Penguins are hurting just about everywhere, even by the bruising standards of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Patric Hornqvist couldn’t gear up for Game 2, for instance.

Even so, the problem is especially worrisome for the Penguins defense. They’re already down Kris Letang and Trevor Daley, among others, so you wonder if the Sens are going to win this in part by attrition.

You can watch Game 2 on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App. (Stream online here)

After the game, Mike Sullivan didn’t provide additional information regarding Rust, Schultz or Hornqvist.

Bryan Rust gets, well, Phaneuf’d via huge hit (Video)


With 132 hits during the regular season, Ottawa Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf isn’t shy about getting physical. Still, it feels like we rarely use his last name as a verb for a big hit these days.

(Remember when getting “Phaneuf’d” was just about as common as being “Kronwalled?” Ah, things that some of us are nostalgic about and others would like to forget.)

The Pittsburgh Penguins are being aggressive in hoping of breaking through against the Senators defense in Game 2, getting some nice chances. Still, that pace can bring about some danger, as Bryan Rust found out when he got Phaneuf’d early in the first period.

Rust left for the locker room after that hard check.

No penalty was called on the play, but the check is inspiring quite a bit of debate right now.