After a dominating 7-3 victory in Game 4 in Ottawa, the Penguins come back home to Pittsburgh with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to eliminate the Senators in Game 5 Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
Pittsburgh has outscored Ottawa 16-9 in the first four contests and their depth and firepower has overwhelmed the Senators. To many fans and prognosticators, the Penguins have already won the series.
Even Ottawa’s captain, Daniel Alfredsson, responded with “Probably not” when asked if the Senators could win three straight games to upset the Penguins.
But Alfredsson followed up with, “I know what we’re going to do,” he told the Ottawa Sun. “We’re going to go out and play one hell of a game. That doesn’t worry me at all. We never quite and that’s not going to stop now.”
The Senators’ “never quit” attitude this season has earned them the moniker of “Pesky Sens.” Despite losing arguably their three best players – Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson – for lengthy stretches this season, they still managed to make the postseason and upset No. 2-seeded Montreal in five games in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Penguins know that it’s too premature to talk about the series being over. That never-say-die Senators team is the one the Penguins are expecting to show up Friday night.
“Ottawa is a team that has no quit,” Matt Cooke said. “They’re not going to stop coming at us.”
“We know (the Senators) are going to be playing their best game,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They’ll be coming in with the mentality to stretch this series back to Ottawa.”
Oddly enough, history is not on the side of the Penguins. Under Bylsma, the Penguins are 0-6 when they have a chance to clinch a playoff series on home ice (inversely Pittsburgh is 6-2 with a chance to end a series on the road).
“I don’t think there’s a reason for it, it’s probably just coincidence,” Cooke said. “The fourth win in a series is always the hardest to get. Their backs are against the wall and they are the most desperate and emotionally attached to the games as they’ve been because of the situation.”
“We’ve played our best road game, but I don’t think we’ve played our best home game of the playoffs,” Bylsma said. “We have to be focused on playing our best home game of the playoffs to date.”
Pittsburgh knows the challenge ahead and doesn’t want to give the Senators any slither of hope. The Penguins’ goal is to clinch a playoff series at home for the first time since Game 5 of the 2008 Eastern Conference finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We’re confident in our room; we put ourselves in a great position in a big game (Friday) night,” Neal said. “We’re going to come out and do the same things. We want to continue getting the job done. That will start when the puck drops.
“We’re focused on tomorrow’s game and doing whatever it takes to close them out.”