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Penguins-Senators Series Aftermath: Team Effort Lifts Pittsburgh

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Game 1: Sens 5, Pens 4  Game 2: Pens 2, Sens 1  Game 3: Pens 4, Sens 2

Game 4: Pens 7, Sens 4 Game 5: Sens 4, Pens 3 3OT
Game 6: Pens 4, Sens 3 OT
The Pittsburgh Penguins might not take the easy route to clinching a series, but you can’t argue with their performance in the clutch.

While the Penguins dominated for a vast majority of the play against the Senators, Pittsburgh’s 4-2 series victory over Ottawa was made possible by the way the Penguins responded to any adversity thrown their way over the course of the six games.

Following a surprising 5-4 setback in Game 1 at Mellon Arena, the first time the Penguins dropped an opening game while holding the home-ice advantage in six series, and then falling behind the Senators, 1-0, 18 seconds into Game 2, Pittsburgh promptly scored 13 of the next 19 goals over the next 179:42 minutes to stake themselves to a commanding 3-1 series lead.

At that point it appeared the Penguins had the Senators all but eliminated as the series shifted back to Pittsburgh for Game 5. Ottawa had other ideas, jumping out to a 2-0 first-period lead. Pittsburgh was undeterred, getting goals by Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby to take a 3-2 lead with 10:59 to play in the third period.

However, Ottawa’s Peter Regin tallied 1:23 minutes later to send the game into overtime and Matt Carkner notched his first career postseason goal 7:06 into the third extra session as the Senators cut their series deficit to 3-2 in the fourth-longest game in Penguins’ history.

Things really got interesting when Ottawa sprinted ahead 3-0 midway through Game 6 at Scotiabank Place. But just when it appeared the Senators had all but forced a Game 7, the Penguins put on an offensive display which showed the rest of the postseason field that it’s going to take quite an effort to dethrone the defending champs.

Matt Cooke scored twice and Bill Guerin once as the Penguins came all the way back to tie the game, 3-3, and force overtime with a dominant second half of Game 6.

Pascal Dupuis broke the hearts of the Senators and sent the Penguins into round two when he ripped a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot over the glove of Ottawa’s Pascal Leclaire 9:56 into overtime.

While it took maybe a little more effort than anyone expected after the Penguins won those three straight contests between Games 2-4, Pittsburgh definitely got the result they deserved with the 4-2 series win. They got to their game for long stretches, played a physical and gritty brand of hockey and received offensive and defensive contributions throughout the lineup.

If the Penguins continue playing at this level the remainder of the postseason, it’s going to require a team’s absolute best game in and game out to knock Pittsburgh off.
The Pittsburgh Penguins received goals from 12 different players, went 3-0 on the road and overcame a 3-0 deficit in Game 6 to eliminate the Ottawa Senators, 4-2, in the opening round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Penguins must now play the waiting game before determining who they will take on in the second round. Possible opponents include the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. Click here to read the Penguins’ potential second-round scenarios.

The Penguins celebrate Pascal Dupuis' game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6
(photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Everyone Contributes
Teams that rely on two or three players to generate their offense usually don’t go far in the Stanley Cup playoffs. While Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin took their usual spots at the top of the team’s scoring chart, it was the contributions the Penguins received from their entire roster which ultimately wore the Senators down.

Pittsburgh received goals from 12 different players and had 14 record points, including 12 points (3G-9A) from their defensemen. While Crosby had the game-winner in Game 3, it was role players Kris Letang, Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis who picked up the other three. Third-line winger Matt Cooke notched three goals in the series, including two in the deciding Game 6 to force overtime.

What Could Have Gone Better: Penalty Kill
The Penguins finished the regular season with the NHL’s ninth-best penalty killing unit (84.1 percent success rate), so the struggle of their penalty kill at times against the Senators was somewhat surprising. Pittsburgh allowed Ottawa to go 7-for-22 (31.8 percent) on the man-advantage, a number the Penguins will want to improve upon moving forward.
In case there was any doubt about Sidney Crosby’s status as the unofficial best player in the world following his 51-goal, 109-point regular season, he made sure to re-affirm his credentials during the opening round of the postseason.

As usual, Crosby was the best offensive player on the ice for either team, picking up five goals and nine assists during the six games. His nine assists and 14 points both lead the postseason. Crosby picked up at least two points in each of the first five games.

Not only did Crosby rack up points at a breathtaking pace against the Senators, he was also ‘Sidsational’ in all areas of the ice. The Penguins captain ranks among the postseason leaders in faceoff wins (77, 1st), faceoff percentage (57.5%, 6th), takeaways (7, t-3rd) and plus-minus (plus-7, t-3rd).

Perhaps Crosby’s best play came in the third period of a 1-1 contest in Game 2. Anton Volchenkov’s shot from the circle went off Marc-Andre Fleury and was heading across the goal line to give the Senators the lead when Crosby came from behind the net to dive and knock the puck away with his backhand as it was inches from the line.
Game 2 was all knotted up, 1-1, and less than five minutes remained in regulation when Sidney Crosby put on a skating display which would have made Peggy Fleming proud. Crosby was guarded closely by Ottawa’s Jason Spezza when he spun the Senators center around behind the net not once, not twice but three times before dishing the puck from his knees to Kris Letang at the right point. Letang’s slap shot through traffic eluded Brian Elliott to give the Penguins a 2-1 victory which evened the series at a game apiece.

Ottawa figured to come out strong in Game 3 after earning a split in Pittsburgh and coming home to their raucous crowd. Alexei Ponikarovsky made sure those fans stayed quiet when he blistered a shot past Elliott just 1:17 into that contest. The Penguins went on to win Game 3, 4-2.

Pittsburgh’s quick-strike offense buoyed the Penguins to a 4-0 advantage 6:12 into the second period of Game 4, but two straight goals by the Senators cut that margin in half, and Ottawa was working on a power play when the ‘Superstar’ all but ended Ottawa’s comeback threat. With the Penguins shorthanded, Maxime Talbot drove hard to the net and directed a gorgeous pass from Craig Adams past Pascal Leclaire on the backhand to make it 5-2 Pittsburgh in a game the Penguins won 7-4.

A Game 7 at Mellon Arena was all but on the horizon when Matt Cooke dented a 3-0 Ottawa lead 1:08 minutes after the Senators scored their third goal. Cooke swatted a shot under Leclaire following whacks by Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal to cut Ottawa’s lead to 3-1. Cooke would also score the Penguins’ third goal in the third period as Pittsburgh came all the way back to force overtime in Game 6.

Dupuis made sure to end whatever hope the Senators had in forcing that Game 7 when he took a centering pass from Staal in the left circle and blew a shot over the glove of Leclaire 9:56 into overtime to give the Penguins the 4-3 victory and spot in the second round.
Unfortunately the Penguins did not make it through the series unscathed. Defenseman Jordan Leopold was knocked from the lineup in Game 2 with a head injury after taking a vicious hit from Andy Sutton. Leopold missed the last four games of the series and was replaced by veteran Jay McKee, who blocked 10 shots and posted a plus-2 rating. Forward Tyler Kennedy left Game 4 early with an undisclosed injury and sat out Games 5 and 6.

Head coach Dan Bylsma deserves major kudos for the Penguins’ 4-3 overtime victory in Game 6. Prior to that contest he made the decision to have Pascal Dupuis take Kennedy’s spot next to Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke. That line went out and scored three of Pittsburgh’s four goals as each player recorded multiple points (Cooke, 2G; Dupuis, 1G-1A; Staal, 2A).

The Penguins might not have come up on the winning end of Game 5 at Mellon Arena, but that doesn’t take away from how great that game was, particularly with the Penguins coming back in Game 6 to eliminate the Senators. Ottawa came away on the winning end when defenseman Matt Carkner’s shot from the right point deflected off Cooke and jumped over Marc-Andre Fleury 7:06 into the third overtime. During the 47:06 minutes of bonus hockey the two teams combined for 38 shots, 32 blocked shots and 32 hits during a back-and-forth affair. Both goaltenders were phenomenal as Fleury stopped 40 shots for the Penguins while Ottawa’s Pascal Leclaire denied 56 shots in his postseason starting debut. It was the longest overtime game in the NHL since the Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings in triple overtime during Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.
> The Penguins improved to 2-1 all-time in the postseason against the Ottawa Senators. Pittsburgh also defeated the Senators, 4-0, during the 2008 postseason. The Penguins have a 9-6 overall record against Ottawa in the playoffs.

> Pittsburgh has won each of its past five postseason series on enemy ice. The Penguins are 15-10 on the road in the playoffs since the beginning of the 2008 postseason.

> As of Sunday night the Penguins ranked near the top of the charts in the following categories: Goals (24, 1st), hits (253, 2nd), shots per game (36.7, 3rd), takeaways (44, 3rd) and power-play percentage (25.0, 4th).

> Head coach Dan Bylsma improved to 5-0 in playoff series. Bylsma has a 20-10 postseason record, leaving him two victories shy of tying Eddie Johnston for second place on the team’s all-time wins list and three short of equaling Scottie Bowman’s team record.

> Sidney Crosby was on another stratosphere against the Senators. He came within striking distance of equaling the team record for assists and points in a single series as he finished with five goals, nine assists and 14 points against Ottawa. Crosby’s 14 points were a new personal high for a single series, surpassing the 13 (8G-5A) he notched against Washington last spring.  

> Evgeni Malkin also had a huge series against the Senators, ranking second behind Crosby in both goals (4) and points (8). Malkin’s three power-play goals tie him for the league lead. Malkin ended the series on a four-game point streak (2G-3A).

> Bill Guerin continued to play at a high level at age 39. He tied for third on the team with six points (2G-4A) in six games. Guerin will take a five-game scoring streak (2G-4A) into the second round.

> Sergei Gonchar had a strong series against the Senators, picking up six helpers in six contests. Gonchar’s six assists lead all defensemen while his six points are tied for second. Gonchar’s plus-7 rating has him tied for third among all skaters. 
1. S. Crosby
2. E. Malkin
3. K. Letang
“Great moment. I didn’t know it was in until everybody
start jumping on me. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
- Pascal Dupuis

Author: Jason Seidling

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