PITTSBURGH -- On Friday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins were looking to not only eliminate the Ottawa Senators
but capture their first series victory on Consol Energy Center ice and move on to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2009.
The Senators, meanwhile, were looking to stave off elimination and force a Game 6 back in Canada.
While Ottawa hung tough through the first period, the Pittsburgh attack proved to be too much and the Penguins rolled to a 6-2 victory on the strength of a James Neal
hat trick and nine different players registering at least one point. Brenden Morrow
got the Penguins on the board at 6:06 of the first period he finished off a series of tic-tac-toe passes to register the game's first goal.
The play developed when Matt Cooke won a race to the puck with Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen above the right faceoff circle. Once Cooke gained control, Cowen peeled off to provide coverage in front of the net. While Cowen was getting back, Cooke threw a cross-ice pass to defenseman Mark Eaton, who then hit Morrow sneaking in behind Cowen.
Cowen was barely got a stick on Morrow before the puck caromed off both of Morrow's skates and past Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson
from the top of the crease.
The Penguins put their league-leading power play to work in the second, just as they have throughout the playoffs. After Kris Letang threw a shot on goal, the rebound fluttered to the feet of Anderson. A wild scramble ensued, but amid the chaos in the crease, James Neal was able to find the loose puck and poke it home at 7:38 of the second to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
With the Penguins on another power play, Evgeni Malkin was whistled for holding, putting the teams at four-on-four. While the penalty killed the Penguins' power play, it didn't halt their momentum.
Just 33 seconds later, Letang took a Tyler Kennedy pass in stride, cut from the top of the left faceoff circle into the slot and unleashed a laser of a wrist shot that beat Anderson over his glove hand to put the Penguins up 3-0.
Ottawa finally solved Tomas Vokoun at 16:18 of the second when Jason Spezza delivered a no-look backhand pass from behind the net that found the stick of Milan Michalek, who then pulled off a slick backhand to forehand move from in tight that fooled Vokoun and left the right side of the net open for Michalek to deposit the puck.
Despite the Senators getting on the board, any hope of an Ottawa comeback seemed to dissipate when Pittsburgh answered the Ottawa score with just 30 seconds left in the second period. This time, it was Malkin streaking in alone on a breakaway and beating Anderson to his stick side with a perfectly-placed wrist shot to put Pittsburgh back ahead by three at 4-1.
Neal added his second score of the game at 11:07 of the third when he picked off a Sergei Gonchar pass at the goal line, skated out to the crease and beat Anderson with a hard wrist shot to send the Pittsburgh crowd into a frenzy.
Ottawa added a late goal by Kyle Turris at 13:32 of the third to pull within three, but Neal completed the hat trick at 17:21 by busting down the slot and beating Anderson with yet another hard wrister to give the Penguins their 13th goal in their past two games.
Vokoun made 29 saves and Anderson stopped 27 shots in defeat.
The Penguins await the winner of the New York Rangers-Boston Bruins series, which Boston leads 3-1. This is the third time in the past six seasons that the Penguins have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals
NOTES: Ottawa's all-time Game 5 record is 13-7. Pittsburgh is 23-19 in Game 5 of playoff series. ... Ottawa is 0-6 in series that it trailed 3-1 ... The Penguins have scored three or more goals in nine consecutive postseason home games ... With Friday's sellout, the Penguins have broken 5 million in overall attendance (5,016,129) since the team's streak of 284 consecutive sellouts began Feb. 14, 2007. ... Scratches for the Penguins included forwards Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale and defensemen Deryk Engelland and Simon Despres. Scratches for the Senators were forwards Guillaume Latendresse and Mark Stone and defensemen Eric Gryba and Mike Lundin.
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