Special teams are a big part of any hockey game, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They were huge in the first three games of the second-round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, and Game 4 was no different.
The Penguins scored four goals in the third period – two on the power play and one shorthanded – to run away with a 7-3 victory Wednesday night at Scotiabank Place. But if someone just looked at the box score without watching the game, they would not know how hard the Penguins had to work to take a 3-1 series lead.
Ottawa led 2-1 after one period, but the Penguins carried a 3-2 lead into the third before exploding with their biggest offensive period of the playoffs. Jarome Iginla and James Neal scored two goals each for Pittsburgh, which has now won five of its last six after splitting the first four games of its first-round series with the New York Islanders.
Defenseman Kris Letang had a shaky opening frame but rebounded with four assists, tying a Penguins franchise record for a playoff game. Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis recorded a goal and an assist apiece, part of an overpowering 42-shot Pittsburgh attack that chased Ottawa starting goalie Craig Anderson for the second time in three games.
Ottawa took a penalty within the first two minutes of the hockey game, but perhaps shorthanded was where they wanted to be. Maybe the momentum of the Daniel Alfredsson game-tying goal from Game 3 carried over because it was the Senators not the Penguins scoring during the penalty. Milan Michalek skated easily by Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin to score a shorthanded goal on the Senators’ first shot of the night.
Minutes later the Penguins received their second power play chance and got great opportunities to tie the game, but Craig Anderson and Senators penalty kill just said no. But the Penguins continued to play hard and James Neal, who has been one of the best Penguins in this series, scored with five minutes left in the first to tie it up.
It only took 1:19 for the Senators to recapture the lead as Kyle Turris would backhand a loose puck into the net.
The Penguins opened the second period scoring two goals in 40 seconds to take a 3-2 lead. The first came off the stick of Chris Kunitz as he was alone on a breakaway and beat Anderson through the five-hole. Then Jarome Iginla tipped the rebound of Kris Letang’s shot into an empty net.
The Senators opened the third on the power play, but the Penguins were able to kill it and were rewarded with a power play of their own. Coming into the third period, the Penguins were scoreless in their last 11 man-advantage chances, allowing two shorthanded goals to boot. That didn’t matter as Neal would score his second of the game, collecting the rebound of Sidney Crosby’s missed shot to increase the lead to 4-2.
After Ottawa took another penalty, the Penguins turning the tables on the Senators as they would score a shorthanded goal of their own. Pascal Dupuis made it 5-2 after receiving a great pass from Matt Cooke. All Dupuis had to do was tip it in from in front.
The Penguins weren’t done yet, as Crosby scored his 40th career playoff goal (seventh of the current postseason) on a brilliant move to the backhand just 31 seconds later. Iginla then netted his second of the game on the power play, making the score 7-2.
The game was out of hand, but the Senators added a late goal on the power play when Alfredsson tipped Erik Karlsson’s shot behind Vokoun, who improved to 5-1 in the playoffs with a 30-save performance.
Friday night the Penguins will look to close the book on the Senators and move on to the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2009. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.