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Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Returns

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Now that was Pittsburgh Penguins hockey.

For the first time in this Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa - and maybe for the first time this entire postseason - the Pens looked like the team we saw last year.

You remember that team. The one that was three steps faster than every opponent. The one that dominated offensive zone time. The one that scored goals with ease and at an alarming rate.

Oh, and the one that finished off the year by hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Yeah, that team.

The Pens looked like their old selves in a completely authoritative 7-0 victory in Game 5 against the Senators on Sunday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena to take a 3-2 series lead.

Now Pittsburgh has an opportunity to close out the series and repeat as conferences champions in Game 6 in Ottawa on Tuesday night - becoming the first team to win back-to-back East titles since, well, the Penguins in 2008 and '09.

But that's a story for another day.

The story for today was the sheer dominance with which Pittsburgh played in Game 5. The Pens won every puck race and puck battle while skating circles around the Senators in the offensive zone.

Pittsburgh's third line of Bryan Rust, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury, Nick Bonino and Carter Rowney really set the tone.

Even putting aside their production - one goal, six assists, seven points - the third line set cycled the puck like the Harlem Globetrotters. 

In fact, on three occasions their offensive zone time was so extended that Pittsburgh was able to change lines while maintaining possession - two of those cycles resulted in Pens' goals.

But most noticeable of all was the Pens' trademark under head coach Mike Sullivan: speed.

The Pens breakouts were so crisp and efficient, which allowed them to play with speed through the neutral zone and break Ottawa's 1-3-1 traffic jam.

Players like Rust, Carl Hagelin, Mart Streit and Josh Archibald showed what a difference they can make in the lineup.

But even in the offensive zone the Pens were playing in another gear. The Senators only defense at times was to back off and allow Pittsburgh to patrol around the perimeter.

Although it had the appearance of a Pittsburgh power play, it really was 5-on-5 upon further review. Still, you had to double check and count to the number of Senators on the ice just to be sure.

Everything was clicking for the Pens.

Strong start? Pittsburgh scored four goals in the first period and chased starting goaltender Craig Anderson - twice! This game was over after the opening 20 minutes.

Team defense: Goaltender Matt Murray stopped all 25 Ottawa shots to record his second career shutout. Although it wasn't a difficult workload since he spent most of the game watching the Pens cycle in the other end.

Special teams? The Pens scored three power-play goals while killing all four power plays for the Senators. The next Ottawa power-play goal will be the first of the series (0 for 15 to date).

Although the Pens can be proud of the way they played in Game 5, they'll need to remember that the Senators aren't going to go down quietly. After all, the Sens won Game 3 with their own dominating performance in a 5-1 triumph.

But as I said before, that's a story for tomorrow. 

The story for today: we got a glimpse of Pittsburgh Penguins hockey at its finest.   

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