The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

May 24, 2013

Penguins look to close out Senators

PITTSBURGH — Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson isn’t quite ready for the traditional season-ending handshake.

Yet, he knows if the Senators can’t find a way to slow down slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s coming soon.

The Penguins grabbed a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinals with a 7-3 rout on Wednesday night, leading Alfredsson to offer Ottawa “probably” can’t win three straight.

Alfredsson insists he wasn’t surrendering, just acknowledging his team’s increasingly slender odds heading into Game 5 on tonight in Pittsburgh.

“It sounds like I had given up (from what I hear),” Alfredsson said. “If you ask anyone, and they look at our series, I don’t think there’s too many people that would pick us right now, and that’s what I meant.”

The Penguins moved within a game of a berth in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2009 by erupting for four goals in the third period, overwhelming the Senators in a brilliant display of firepower.

All those goals, however, count for just one victory. It takes four wins to move on, not three. Pittsburgh ran into a similar situation two years ago when it took a 3-1 lead in the first round against Tampa Bay only to lose in seven games, including a 1-0 defeat at home in Game 7.

The defeat dropped Pittsburgh to 0-6 at home in potential series-clinching wins under coach Dan Bylsma, a number the Penguins believe is an anomaly.

“The fourth win in a series is always the hardest to get,” forward Matt Cooke said. “They become more desperate and emotionally attached to games.”

Perhaps, but the Senators appeared drained after the Penguins erupted for four goals in the third period. Coach Paul MacLean’s postgame session with the media lasted all of 13 seconds, which is about as long as it seems the Senators have led in regulation during the series.

More accurately, Ottawa held a pair of one-goal leads in Game 4. Both times the Penguins responded during what Bylsma called his team’s best road game of the playoffs.

Now he’d like to see something similar at Consol Energy Center. Despite a pair of shutouts in the first round against the Islanders and relatively easy – by playoff standards – wins against the Senators in Games 1 and 2 last week – Bylsma believes Pittsburgh can reach another gear at home. The Penguins might need it, if they want to avoid heading back to Canada on Sunday.

“They’ll be coming in with that mentality to stretch this series back to Ottawa,” Bylsma said. “I think we have to be focused on playing our best home game of the playoffs.”

If the Penguins can somehow bring the swarming attack that swamped the Senators in Game 4, that shouldn’t be a problem. Pittsburgh tilted the ice for the better part of three periods, dumping the puck deep into Ottawa’s end then using its speed and aggressive forecheck to smother Ottawa to within a game of its season.

Pittsburgh forward James Neal broke out of a mini-slump with two goals and an assist. Jarome Iginla scored twice. Sidney Crosby added one and defenseman Kris Letang collected four assists. It was the kind of high-octane play that can be hard to come by in the postseason. Yet the Penguins have largely avoided the button-downed approach prevalent this time of year.

The NHL’s highest scoring team of the regular season is also the highest scoring team of the playoffs, averaging nearly a full goal a game better than the other seven teams remaining in the field.

Pittsburgh has already chased Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson twice in four games. He’ll almost certainly be back out there on Friday night yet understands the margin for error is all but gone.

“As you’ve seen in this series, when we don’t play well for five, six minutes in a row the puck ends up in our net a few times,” Anderson said. “It’s really a focus thing and we have to focus on playing well and playing well every shift.”

Something the Penguins have struggled with as well. The difference, though, has been Pittsburgh’s ability to exploit Ottawa’s mistakes. For all of Anderson’s talent, his teammates know he can only do so much if there isn’t much help in front of him.

“To expect him to make save after save from point-blank range is unrealistic,” Ottawa forward Jason Spezza said. “We have to do a better job of keeping them to the outside and taking some of the heat off him that way.”

The pressure will only rise on tonight with the Penguins on the brink of getting halfway to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • McIlroy 0720 McIlroy holds on to win British Open

    Walking off the 18th green as the British Open champion, Rory McIlroy kept gazing at all the greats on golf’s oldest trophy.
    On the claret jug, his name is etched in silver below Phil Mickelson.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0719 Pirates take second straight over Rockies, win in 11th inning

    Jordy Mercer doubled home Neil Walker with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
    Walker led off the inning with a single against Colorado’s Chad Bettis (0-2), moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored one batter later when Mercer hit a drive deep into the gap in left-center.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • out at home Eighth-inning rally carries Pirates to victory over Rockies

    Travis Snider’s pinch-hit double in the eighth scored Neil Walker to spark the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
    Walker trotted home when Colorado right fielder Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t track down Snider’s sinking line drive off reliever Matt Belisle (2-5). All-Star Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly one batter later.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • score Pirates in race, hope for late surge

    The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in an average, every day – if still heated – pennant race.
    A season after shedding the yoke of two decades of failure with a stirring run to a playoff berth, the Pirates are just another solid if not spectacular team trying to keep pace in the jam-packed NL Central.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Derby 0714 Cespedes wins again, beating Frazier in HR derby

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • All-Star Game 0714 Pitching matchup features two of game’s most dominant arms

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jeter 0714 Derek Jeter, an All-Star for the last time

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cleveland Browns getting 'Swagger’ with new dog mascot

    Johnny Manziel’s newest teammate with the Browns has four legs and can roll over on command.

    July 14, 2014

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads