May 24, 2013
Pittsburgh Penguins' James Neal (18) celebrates with teammate Evgeni Malkin (71) after his third goal of the game during the third period in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs series against the Ottawa Senators, Friday, May 24, 2013 in Pittsburgh. The Penguins won 6-2 to win the series four games to one. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Canada, you may want to sit down.
The Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the Eastern Conference finals Friday, eliminating the Ottawa Senators -- the last remaining Canadian team -- with a decisive 6-2 victory in Game 5.
With that, an American club will win the Stanley Cup for the 19th straight season. Now comes the annual Canadian tradition where the country shifts from counting Canadian teams in contention to Canadian players on American teams.
The Senators made a slight improvement in Game 5, holding the Penguins to fewer goals than in their previous game. Unfortunately, it was just one fewer, and that's not nearly enough when they allowed 7 the last time around.
This game was a lot like Game 4, come to think of it: All Pittsburgh, and not all that close.
The Penguins got on the board early, opening the scoring when Brenden Morrow redirected a Mark Eaton pass into the goal with his skate.
It was reviewed, but the officials ruled that there had been no distinct kicking motion (or at least not as much of one as when Mika Zibanejad scored a goal similarly in Round 1).
Pittsburgh doubled the lead on a second period powerplay, when Kris Letang threw a puck into the goal mouth, Craig Anderson lost it in his equipment, and James Neal was the first to find it.
Ottawa would never get any closer. Letang scored what would turn out to be the game-winner five minutes later, and after a Milan Michalek goal brought them back within two, Neal and Evgeni Malkin would force a turnover and connect on a late, second-period dagger:
In the third, Neal went off, adding two more of his own for a hat trick as the Penguins closed out the series.
The Penguins were so explosive in this game, they added another goal in the handshake line.
Said Paul MacLean after the rout: "I hope they don't bill us for the clinic." That guy is the best and now we won't get another press conference from him until next year. In a way, we all lost tonight.
The Penguins outscored the Senators 26-11 in this series, and if you're looking for the reason the Senators are heading home and the Penguins are heading to the Eastern Conference finals, I'd start there. Ottawa simply couldn't handle the Penguins' attack. Like, at all.
Can Pittsburgh's next opponent? The Penguins had a much easier time with the Senators than the Islanders, and one wonders if Ottawa was simply an inferior opponent, or if Pittsburgh has found their legs. The latter idea is a scary thought. Sidney Crosby scored just once in the final two games of this series. Pittsburgh still scored 13 times. The Boston Bruins (or New York Rangers, I guess) have to be hoping that was Ottawa's fault.
But it wasn't all sunshine and roses for the Penguins. With the win, the conditional draft pick they traded for Douglas Murray officially became a second 2nd-rounder. Ray Shero is probably okay with that, though.
As for the Senators, it wasn't a great way to go out, but they still have to be proud of what they accomplished this season. Many hockey fans wrote them off months ago, but they're only finished now. Plus, they look to have a promising future.
Whether captain Daniel Alfredsson is a part of it remains to be seen. Does he have one more year left in him?