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Penguins put Senators on brink with rout

by Arpon Basu

OTTAWA – A lot of teams that throw 50 shots on net and come away with one goal would get discouraged. The Pittsburgh Penguins simply grew more determined, and now they are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals.

After being held without a goal in the series, James Neal scored twice and added an assist to lead the Penguins to a 7-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Scotiabank Place.

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-1, with Game 5 scheduled for Friday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Penguins had peppered Senators goaltender Craig Anderson with 50 shots in a 2-1 double overtime loss in Game 3 on Sunday, but the offensive juggernaut would not be denied a second game in a row.

Trailing 2-1 after one period, the Penguins erupted for six straight to turn the game into a rout.

"We felt we carried the play for the majority of the [first] period, and we knew if we kept playing that way they couldn't keep up," said Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. "It looked like we played with a lot more speed; they were having trouble keeping up with us.

"I think when you play that way the best team's going to win eventually."

While the Senators are facing a big mountain to climb, coach Paul MacLean was defiant after the game, taking no questions from the media and simply holding up the score sheet before saying, "I think everything's right here. It's 7-3. See you in Pittsburgh. We're going to Pittsburgh, and we're coming to play. Have a good night."

Neal's three points doubled his total for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Kris Letang had four assists and Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves to win his fifth game in six starts for the Penguins.

Jarome Iginla also had two goals, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis had a goal and an assist each and Chris Kunitz got the other goal for the Penguins.

"We've been playing good hockey, and when you do that it's exciting and it's fun," Neal said. "We saw that tonight."

The Penguins' power play, which had gone 1-for-12 over the previous two games, broke out with two goals on five chances, and is now clicking at a League-best 28.6 percent success rate in these playoffs.

"I don't think we changed much," Crosby said. "Last game we got some great chances. It wasn't a matter of not getting chances, it was a matter of executing. With all those chances we got, we eventually got one that their [defense] blocked off the boards and went into an empty net. So it's not always perfect, but if you consistently create chances the puck's going to go in."

Anderson looked sharp early, but finally succumbed to the Penguins' onslaught, allowing five goals on 22 shots after the first intermission before being pulled with the Senators down 6-2 at 8:39 of the third.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson scored a power play goal in the third period and added an assist, giving him 100 playoff points in 120 career playoff games.

Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris provided Ottawa with the lead after 20 minutes, but the Penguins simply would not be denied again in Game 4.

Trailing 2-1 to open the second period, Kunitz scored on a breakaway at 1:08 and Iginla scored on a juicy rebound allowed by Anderson 40 seconds later to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.

"It would have been easy to get frustrated after the first with how that went and the chances we created," Crosby said. "We just trusted the way we played and ended up getting some goals."

Neal's second goal of the game and third of the playoffs at 1:59 of the third on the power play made it 4-2 for Pittsburgh and opened the floodgates.

Dupuis scored shorthanded off a great Matt Cooke feed at 8:08 and Crosby followed with a spectacular backhand to the top corner after weaving his way through the Senators' defense 31 seconds later to make it 6-2 and chase Anderson from the game.

Iginla scored Pittsburgh's second power-play goal of the game and his fourth of the playoffs 1:14 at 9:53 off a one-timer from the slot against Ottawa backup Robin Lehner, while Alfredsson's deflection on a power play at 14:44 of third completed the scoring.

The Senators took their first lead of the series at 2:29 of the first period by scoring their second shorthanded goal in as many games – and once again, Alfredsson was at the heart of it.

Alfredsson's shorthanded goal with 28.2 seconds left in Game 3 sent it to overtime, allowing Colin Greening to win it for Ottawa in the second overtime period.

This time Alfredsson made a brilliant play along the boards while down a man, ignoring the obvious dump down the ice to spin and find Michalek in stride at the Ottawa blue line. Michalek then shot out of a rocket down the ice, beating Evgeni Malkin to the Pittsburgh net and beating Vokoun with a top corner wrist shot to put Ottawa ahead 1-0.

Anderson did his best to maintain the slim lead, closing the five-hole on an Iginla chance in alone just after the 10-minute mark and making two saves on Crosby on a 2-on-1 about 30 seconds later. He then had Crosby lift his stick behind the net to steal the puck and send it out to Paul Martin for a one-timer, but Anderson got back in his net in time to glove the shot.

The Penguins tied it less than a minute after that Martin chance when Neal found a loose puck right after an offensive zone faceoff and beat Anderson with a quick wrist shot at 14:56 of the opening period, his first goal of the series.

But the Senators took the lead back 1:19 later when Turris jumped on a rebound and slid it past Vokoun at 16:15 to allow Ottawa to go into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.

It didn't last long, as the Penguins scored the next six goals of the game and are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals, while the Senators are facing elimination Friday in Pittsburgh.

"It was a tough one the other night to lose," Neal said. "We came in here with a huge effort and got a chance to come back to our rink and close it out."

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