It is nice to have the Penguins back. The Pens combined a dominating offense with a take command, clear the puck defense, and an opportunistic special teams to flatten the desperate Senators 7-4 Tuesday night in Scotiabank Place and take a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Although both teams stepped on the ice determined to earn victory, Pittsburgh took control early and blitzed Ottawa, sending starting goalie Brian Elliott to the bench after yielding four goals on 19 shots in 26 minutes. Elliott’s replacement, Pascal LeClaire, didn’t fare much better. The veteran – playing his first career playoff game – was welcomed with more scalding rubber.
This game will surely be remembered for the eight-goal second period. The Pens’ five tallies set a franchise record for the most road goals in a single period. After opening a 4-0 lead, the contest became slightly squeamish twice, when the Sens closed to 4-2, 5-3, and 6-4, but the result was never truly in doubt.
The game’s No. 1 star comes as no surprise to anyone. Sidney Crosby scored two goals and added two assists in a spectacular performance. The Captain once again added stellar defense to his offensive fireworks. Remember before the series started when the press was lauding Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov for their ability to shutdown the young superstar? The tandem was a game-worst -3 in this match-up and Crosby leads the playoffs with 11 points.
Evgeni Malkin opened the scoring with a howitzer slapshot 12 minutes into the contest. The marker was absolutely huge as it quieted a raucous crowd and planted the first seeds of doubt in a fragile Ottawa squad.
Crosby scored his first and Matt Cooke followed 12 seconds later to give the Pens a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Crosby’s second tally was a perfectly-placed wrister that beat Elliott on the far side and seemed to deflate the Sens, now facing a mountainous four-goal deficit.
Colossal putz Chris Neil and Daniel Alfredsson responded with even strength goals to ignite the home crowd. The situation was becoming more uncomfortable as Ottawa went on the power play. Not to be denied on this night, Craig Adams and Max Talbot combined on an odd-man break to score a shortie that once again provided some breathing room.
After Matt Cullen notched the Sens’ first of two 5-on-3 goals, Chris Kunitz top-shelfed a pokey assist from Crosby to close out the wild second period. Spezza beat Fleury on a rising shot 7:37 into the third, once again bringing Ottawa within two. Fleury made 26 saves on the night but two of his four goals allowed came when the Pens were two men down.
Jordan Staal made up for a rough outing by chipping in Pittsburgh’s seventh goal and effectively clinching the triumph with 7:33 remaining.
The final minutes were lowlighted by Ottawa showing their class. Jarkko Ruutu (-1, 3 pen., 14 pim) and Neil (-1, 4 pen., 16 pim) joined with partner-in-crime Andy Sutton (2 pen., 4 pim) to dish out some cheap shots on disinterested Penguins. Sutton is a very good defenseman despite taking too many penalties. His frame and understanding of the game enable him to eliminate many an offensive player. However, his demeanor and overall d-bag attitude hinder his ability to succeed. Although seven came in the final minutes when the outcome was decided, Ottawa took an egregious 15 penalties tonight.
Something has definitely clicked for the Pens. They look much more like the team that won a championship last year. A series-clinching win Thursday night could earn them some much deserved rest.
Led by their Captain, the Penguins put together two very solid road playoff games to take control of the series. It was a pleasure to witness.