Sidney Crosby was careful not to get too far ahead of himself after helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rout the Ottawa Senators for a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“I’m not talking about anything ahead of Game 5,” the Pittsburgh captain said when asked about a potential Eastern Conference final against the Boston Bruins.
But after the Penguins’ 7-3 victory Wednesday night, it’s hard to imagine Crosby and his teammates aren’t starting to think about facing the Bruins, who are up 3-0 over the New York Rangers.
Jarome Iginla and James Neal each scored twice, Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis added goals, and Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves. Down 2-1 after the first period, the Penguins scored twice in a 40-second span early in the second and added four goals in the first 10 minutes of the third.
Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson scored for Ottawa. Senators goalie Craig Anderson was benched after Pittsburgh’s sixth goal, and Robin Lehner finished the game.
“There was a sense like, ‘OK, this might take as many shots as we can muster to break this guy.’ And fortunately, we kept on that mindset,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “It was a matter of, ‘We are going to have to fire anything and everything we can at this guy to get one by him.'”
Game 5 is Friday night in Pittsburgh.
“I know what we’re going to do,” Alfredsson said. “We’re going to go out and play one hell of a game. That doesn’t worry me at all. We never quit and that’s not going to stop now. We know the odds are against us in every way, but we never quit and that’s going to continue.”
But Alfredsson also conceded that the Senators faced long odds of rallying against the top-seeded Penguins.
“Probably not,” Alfredsson said, according to NHL.com. “[Pittsburgh’s] depth and our play right now … it doesn’t look too good.
“When you look at what we did, it wasn’t good enough. Does that mean [Pittsburgh] was good? Did we make them good? Who really cares? From our point of view, we didn’t manage the puck [well], we didn’t execute our passes, and subsequently, we got punished in the neutral zone. We turned way too many pucks over and gave them some freebies. It would have been nice to have the lead for a little bit longer, but now we’re back on our heels again. We didn’t shut them down when it matters.”
The 40-year-old captain was seen retrieving the puck at the end of the game, NHL.com reported, but Alfredsson insisted that the puck was a memento for his family and not a sign that he was considering retirement at season’s end.
Senators coach Paul MacLean didn’t take a single question after the game. Instead, he held up the scoresheet and said: “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.”
The Senators, coming off a double-overtime victory Sunday night in Game 3, opened the scoring on Michalek’s short-handed goal at 2:29 of the first period. With defenseman Sergei Gonchar in the penalty box, Alfredsson fed the puck up the middle to a streaking Michalek, who broke through the defense and beat Vokoun low on the glove side for Ottawa’s second short-handed goal of the series.
It was the Senators’ first lead of the series. It wouldn’t last.
Neal tied it with 5:04 left in the period, picking up the loose puck in the slot and putting it in the back of the net. Turris put Ottawa back in front off a rebound with 3:45 left in the first.
Pittsburgh tied it early in the second when Kunitz got behind the defense and went in alone to beat Anderson. Less than a minute later, Anderson gave up a rebound on Kris Letang’s shot that landed on the tape of Iginla’s stick to make it 3-2.
Neal started the third-period flurry with a power-play goal at 1:59. Dupuis added a short-handed goal at 8:07, Crosby followed at 8:39, and Iginla scored on a power play at 9:53.
Alfredsson finished the scoring with a late power-play goal for his 100th career playoff point.