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 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. 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 to win the series 4-1.
"We got to our game a lot," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "The depth we have showed -- different guys chipping in. The whole way through we didn't have many lulls where we lost momentum at any point."
Brenden Morrow got the Penguins on the board at 6:06 of the first period when he finished off a series of tic-tac-toe passes for 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 of the puck, 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 barely got a stick on Morrow before the puck caromed off both of Morrow's skates and past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson from the top of the crease.
The Penguins put their league-leading power play to work in the second. 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, Neal was able to find the loose puck and push it home at 7:38 of the second to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
"You give them anything, they take advantage of it," Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips said.
With the Penguins on another power play, Evgeni Malkin was whistled for holding, putting the teams at four-on-four. While the penalty terminated 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 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.
"I don't know if I've seen a team that deep, to be honest with you," Anderson said.
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.
"I think you saw it on my face, it's pretty exciting," Neal said. "Our fans are crazy here. It's a fun city to be a part of and it's awesome to be able to play out there because everyone is behind us, and just walking around each day and going to lunch or doing anything you see the jerseys everywhere, so it's special."
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.
The Penguins await the winner of the New York Rangers-Boston Bruins series, which Boston leads 3-1.
"We didn't have a lot of breaks during the season," Letang said. " It's going to be fun to have the rest and regroup."
This is the third time in the past six seasons that the Penguins have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.
The game may have also marked the end of storied careers for both Daniel Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar.
"They're going to make decisions on what is best for them," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "For me, both of them have been outstanding as far as leadership goes since I took over this team. My expectation is that they're going to be back until they tell me they aren't going to be."
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.