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Pyatt says Senators need to be more aggressive within defensive system

‘We need to get forechecking a bit more, just to put more pressure in their zone,’ Senators winger Tom Pyatt said after a disappointing 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 4.
Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia

PITTSBURGH — Tom Pyatt is the poster boy for what Guy Boucher is all about, the defensive conscience of the Ottawa Senators.

General manager Pierre Dorion has even joked that Pyatt is like Boucher’s son, given how much the Senators coach has leaned on him in crucial situations throughout the season.

For all that, though, Pyatt was outspoken about how the Senators employed the oft-criticized 1-3-1 system while losing 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, a defeat that knotted the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final at 2-2.

“We have success with our neutral zone system and all that, but I think there are some times in games where we sit back too much,” Pyatt said amid the deep disappointment in the dressing room.

“We need to get forechecking a bit more, just to put more pressure in their zone. We have success with the way we play and we’re going to stick with it, but (Friday) was a slow game for us. We just didn’t execute fast enough.”

Pyatt capped the scoring with 5:01 left on Friday, his second goal of the playoffs, setting up the furious finish.

Yet when the Senators are at their best, including the opening 12 minutes of Game 3 when they built a 4-0 lead, they’re relentless on the end boards in the offensive zone, giving opposition defencemen little time to think and/or move the puck.

Considering how banged up the Penguins’ blue-line is — Chad Ruhwedel is the latest to go down, suffering a concussion when hit hard in the first period of Game 4 by Bobby Ryan — it’s paramount that the Senators take advantage of Pittsburgh’s most blatant weakness.

Pyatt nodded his head when asked if the Senators were “disjointed” on Friday.

“A little bit,” he said. “It was a slow game. We weren’t moving our feet well or executing.”

The Senators also made life easy for Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, making his first start of the playoffs in place of Marc-André Fleury. Before Friday, Murray’s previous start was April 6.

Murray finished strong, holding the Senators off in the final minute, but Ottawa players didn’t do enough to disturb his rhythm.

“Definitely not at the start of the game,” said Pyatt. “We didn’t have a ton of shots at the start. Not enough zone time. We’ve got to do a better job of just throwing the puck at the net and having guys there. That’s how we scored (Friday).”

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