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Penguins wary of Senators, won't look past Game 6

Players will remain focused after nearly letting last series slip away

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins must smell blood in the water now.

After dominating the Ottawa Senators from start to finish in a 7-0 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday, they are one win from returning to the Stanley Cup Final.

It's been a long and, at times, challenging road this season compared to the Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup a year ago with the injuries and adversity they've had to overcome. But with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series, the Penguins can finish off the Senators in Game 6 in Ottawa on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

 

[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Senators series coverage | Gulitti: Penguins finally get secondary scoring in Game 5]

 

They would be the first defending champion to return to the Stanley Cup Final since the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, when they lost to the Penguins in seven games. The Penguins are bidding to become the first repeat champion since the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

They are trying to put all that out of their minds. Nothing has come easy this season, so they're not expecting it to now.

"We've been really good at just focusing on the game at hand regardless of the situation, good or bad," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We've had a lot of different things happen throughout the year where we've just had to focus on that next game and that will have to be the same approach here heading into Game 6. We know after a game like [Sunday] with the situation and them going back home, it's going to be a big challenge there."

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm5: Sullivan on his team's complete effort

The Penguins' hopes of repeating were beginning to fade after a 5-1 loss in Game 3 in Ottawa on Wednesday. Up to that point they had scored three goals in the series and the Senators were frustrating them with a suffocating 1-3-1 defensive system in front of goaltender Craig Anderson.

Those frustrations seem like a bad dream after their performance on Sunday. Seven Penguins scored and 11 had at least one point. Crosby, Phil Kessel, Bryan Rust and Trevor Daley each had a goal and an assist. Evgeni Malkin and Carter Rowney had three assists apiece.

The new third line of Rust, Nick Bonino (two assists) and Rowney combined for seven points (one goal, six assists) and the power play went 3-for-3.

Almost forgotten were rookie goaltender Matt Murray's 25 saves in his second career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout.

"This was one of the more complete efforts, for sure," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We've had a few of them. This is one of them. I thought our guys had a readiness about them [Sunday] that we're going to need moving forward if we're going to get to where we want to go."

The bad news for the Senators is the Penguins are beginning to get healthier. Rust returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury and defenseman Justin Schultz participated in warmups but was held out for the third consecutive game because of an upper-body injury. Right wing Patric Hornqvist also is near returning from an upper-body injury that has kept him out of the past four games.

Video: Penguins blank Senators in Game 5 for 3-2 series lead

The Penguins won't get back to full strength in these playoffs with defenseman Kris Letang out following season-ending neck surgery, but they're on the verge of getting some important pieces back that would help should they advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

"It's always good when you have your full lineup," Bonino said. "I think one of the strengths of our organization last year and this year have been the guys who've been able to come in, step in pretty seamlessly and make plays for us. I didn't know [Rust] was back until this morning. Obviously a couple other guys tried today in the warmup. Whenever you get them back, it's good."

Conversely, the Senators have their own injury problems, with left wing Alexandre Burrows and defenseman Mark Borowiecki out with lower-body injuries and defensemen Erik Karlsson and Cody Ceci and center Derick Brassard sitting out the third period as a precaution Sunday. Although Senators coach Guy Boucher said he expects Karlsson, who has been playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel, Ceci and Brassard to play in Game 6, it's clear they are not 100 percent.

It doesn't help that Anderson has not played well in the past two games. The Penguins chased him to the bench twice Sunday, first after scoring three goals on 12 shots in the opening 16:04, and again after he returned to finish the first period and gave up another goal on Scott Wilson's bank shot from below the goal line.

Regardless, the Penguins are expecting the Senators to push back hard in Game 6.

The Penguins faced similar adversity after their lopsided loss in Game 3 to the Senators and after letting a 3-1 series lead slip away in the second round against the Washington Capitals. Each time they responded, defeating the Capitals 2-0 in Game 7 and winning the past two against the Senators.

"You just want to focus on the moment right now," defenseman Olli Maatta said. "I don't think you want to get ahead of yourself and start thinking of anything else. … Game 6 is going to be the toughest game of all. We know trying to close out the series is going to be the toughest."

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