Evgeni Malkin and Jarko Ruutu scored second-period goals, leading Pittsburgh to a 3-1 win over Ottawa on Wednesday night to complete a four-game sweep of their first-round series.
Sidney Crosby scored into an empty net with 7.5 seconds remaining and had an assist, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 21 saves for the Penguins, who got their first sweep in 16 years and their first playoff series win since 2001.
“It feels great,” Crosby said. “Obviously it was a different situation last year and we definitely went through some learning experiences there, but we responded well here in the first round.”
The young Penguins were knocked out of last year’s playoffs in five games by the Senators. Ottawa went on to make its first Stanley Cup finals appearance in modern franchise history, losing in five to Anaheim.
“They handled us pretty well last year,” Crosby said. “They were physical and they were hard on us and to be able to come back this year and learn from our mistakes and be better for it and get a win here feels good for sure.”
The Senators had a newly mounted photo mural of last year’s series-ending handshake line with Pittsburgh in a hallway between the two dressing rooms when the series shifted to Ottawa for Games 3 and 4.
“Most of us, our first playoff memory was losing here, so that’s changed now,” Crosby said.
Cory Stillman scored for the Senators, who were swept out of the first round for the third time in their 11 consecutive playoff appearances.
The Penguins also became the first team to advance to the second round. Pittsburgh will face Boston , if the Bruins overcome their 3-1 series deficit against Montreal to advance, or the winner of the New Jersey -New York Rangers series.
Malkin scored his second goal of the playoffs 1:40 into the second. The 21-year-old Russian opened the scoring during the Penguins’ second power-play opportunity as he flicked his own rebound past Martin Gerber with a one-handed backhand on a setup by Crosby .
Stillman brought the sold-out Scotiabank Place crowd of 19,954 to life midway through the period when he tied it at 1. Stillman pushed a loose puck at the right edge of the crease slowly into the goal at 10:31 for his second goal of the playoffs.
Ruutu restored Pittsburgh’s lead for good at 15:28 with a sensational individual effort after he was sent in on Gerber by Tyler Kennedy.
With Senators defenseman Brian Lee in pursuit, Ruutu drove the net and stopped with a turn to the left as he spun around to avoid Lee, beating Gerber with a hard backhand along the ice and between the Ottawa goalie?s pads.
“It was half a breakaway—the D was right on me,” Ruutu said. “I tried to cut in front of him and I was on my backhand, so I lost the puck a little bit, and then I decided to turn around and throw it at the net.”
An apparent tying goal by Ottawa ‘s Antoine Vermette late in the second was reviewed and disallowed because he kicked it in with his right foot.
Pittsburgh, which had lost its last three playoff series since a second-round win over Buffalo in 2001, hadn’t swept since consecutive sweeps of Boston and Chicago on its way to its second straight Stanley Cup in 1992.
The Senators got off to an NHL record 15-2 start, then struggled through the rest of the regular season, barely hanging on to one of the final playoff berths in the East after general manager Bryan Murray fired head coach John Paddock to move back behind the bench himself.
“Watching the team, like everbody has brought up a thousand times, we looked like we had a promising season ahead of us,” Murray said. “We just didn’t play over the course of the latter part of the year the way we had been playing.”
Penguins LW Gary Roberts missed his second straight game because of a groin injury. … It was the Penguins’ third sweep of a best-of-seven first-round series. Pittsburgh swept Oakland in its first playoff appearance in 1970, and beat the New York Rangers four straight to begin the 1989 playoffs. The Penguins also swept a best-of-three preliminary series against St. Louis to begin the 1975 playoffs. …The Senators were also swept in the first round by Buffalo in 1999, and Toronto.