|PIT Leads Series 1 - 0|
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have a tried-and-true plan for success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They executed it perfectly Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center, and the result was a dominant 4-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
"We are way more near where we need to be [in Game 1]," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "We got the puck deep, got on the forecheck, and we were able to get in the offensive zone because of that.
"Tonight was a much better indication of where we need to play 5-on-5."
When the Penguins play a simple, fundamental game like that, it plays to their strengths and allows them not only to generate scoring chances, but to manufacture power plays. Once that happens, the Penguins know they can be the most dangerous team in hockey.
On Tuesday, the power play again was the primary offensive weapon for the Penguins, who received man-advantage goals from Paul Martin and Chris Kunitz to go along with an even-strength goal from Evgeni Malkin and a shorthanded tally from Pascal Dupuis.
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Friday night here.
"Special teams [are] huge, and again this power play that they have with all those players, they're dangerous," Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot said. "Whether we've got to play with more discipline, whatever that is; whatever the answer is, it's something we have to focus in on."
In the first round, Pittsburgh scored seven power-play goals in 21 attempts against the New York Islanders. That efficiency proved to be the difference in a series that went six games and was much closer than many anticipated.
It was supposed to be a different story against Ottawa, which allowed the Montreal Canadiens three goals on 19 power-play opportunities across the five games of that series and had won three straight. Ottawa also had the NHL's best penalty kill during the regular season.
"We only took three minor penalties in the game and they took advantage of two of them," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "That's to their credit; obviously their PP is clicking at 33 percent, so we can't do that.
"The difference of the game is obviously the execution of their power play -- and giving up a shorthanded goal accentuates our special-teams play much more."
The three goals on special teams meant the Penguins merely needed adequate goaltending to get the win.
"Voky, since he's come in, he's been great," Pittsburgh forward Jarome Iginla said. "You can tell he's feeling good, and I think it's definitely a good situation to have as a team when you have two confident goaltenders like we have."
Martin, who scored the tying goal late in regulation against the Islanders in Game 6, opened the scoring 2:41 into the game with Kyle Turris in the box.
Malkin got the primary assist on the goal, giving him at least one assist in all seven postseason games Pittsburgh has played. He has 10 assists in these playoffs, which leads the League.
Pittsburgh's lead was short-lived, a carryover of a problem that perplexed the Penguins throughout the first round.
Ottawa forward Colin Greening scored his first Stanley Cup Playoffs goal when he pushed a loose puck across after Vokoun could not handle a bad-angled shot from Erik Condra, a harmless flip that originated behind the goal line.
It was not the start the Penguins wanted for Vokoun. Fleury made a habit of allowing those careless goals in his final three appearances against the Islanders.
But Vokoun settled down after that early hiccup. He battled the puck throughout the first two periods but did not allow another goal. In three games this postseason, Vokoun has stopped 101 of 105 shots.
"He played very good again tonight," Bylsma said. "They draw even in the first on a play from behind the goal line, but from that point in time there was a lot of good plays [from Vokoun]. They had some flurries on him and I thought he was real strong as the game went on."
As a result, his teammates found the confidence to pull away with Kunitz, on the power play, and Dupuis, on the penalty kill, delivering the crucial blows in the final two periods
Kunitz has three goals in the playoffs; all have come on the man-advantage. For Dupuis, it was his first shorthanded goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His six goals this postseason lead the League.
For Ottawa, it was not the same Craig Anderson who carried the Senators through the first round. That Anderson allowed four goals in the final three games against Montreal. This Anderson allowed three goals in a little less than 39 minutes.
"It wasn't good enough," Anderson said. "We have to be better and it starts with myself giving my team a chance to win. [I've] got to lead by example and go out and do the job."
The Senators lost rugged defenseman Eric Gryba, who suffered an upper-body injury after a second-period open-ice hit from Brooks Orpik. MacLean said there was no update on the defenseman's status and Gryba will be evaluated again Wednesday.
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