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Penguins seek to close out Senators in Game 5, advance to Conference Final

Sean Leahy
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Entering Game 5 Friday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to do something they've yet to accomplish under head coach Dan Bylsma: close out a playoff series on home ice.

"I'm aware," Bylsma told reporters Friday about that little blip on his NHL resume.

Since Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien in Feb. 2009, the Penguins have had six chances to initiate a handshake line on the ice at Mellon Arena and CONSOL Energy Center, and six times they've failed. Up 3-1 in their series versus the Ottawa Senators, the Penguins are also a win away from advancing past the second round for the first time since that 2008-09 season; one that ended with the franchise's third Stanley Cup.

"Our team knows exactly how important this opportunity is to get the fourth win and try to do that here as soon as possible and not look at this being three more games," said Bylsma after Friday's morning skate. "We have one game right in front of us and it's important to have that mentality and mindset for us tonight."

But as Senators head coach Paul MacLean declared during his only post-Game 4 statement, his team is going to Pittsburgh and coming to play. And like the New York Rangers, Ottawa can only follow the cliche and take it one game at a time.

The Senators won't be able to force a Game 6 if they let the high-powered Pittsburgh offense run wild like Hulkamania again. Offense is obviously the Penguins' biggest strength, having scored 16 times through the first four games. That's where Craig Anderson comes in; but he's been pulled twice in three games after having gone 43 starts, dating back to March 2012, without getting the hook. Any Ottawa comeback starts with Anderson.

"We haven't played very well," said Anderson. "You don't give up seven goals by playing well, I'll tell you that right now.

"I think we have to get back to what gives us success and that's hardnosed hockey, taking away space and figuring out how to win games 2-0 or 2-1. That's how we've had success all year and that's our blueprint for winning."

Beating the Penguins 2-0 or 2-1 is hard enough, but with Anderson in net, the Senators can pull it off. His 49-save performance in Game 3 gave Ottawa the chance to tie the score late in regulation and eventually win it in double overtime. They won't win any game that turns into a shootout, they know that, and slowing Pittsburgh's offense for three straight games in a tall task. But a goaltender getting hot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs isn't a rare sighting.

It's just a matter of how high the desperation level is on the Ottawa side of the ice.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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