Thursday, April 19, 2007

More time for road hockey Sidney!

Senators 3-Penguins 0

The Ottawa Senators picked up their much desired fourth win and dismissed the Penguins from further play in this years Stanley Cup.

David Naylor captured the series winning game for the Globe and Mail.

Senators march on
Canadian Press
April 19, 2007
OTTAWA — Aside from the fact it took five games and not four, the Ottawa Senators' first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins went about as well as they could have hoped for.

And so it will be a confident and well-rested group that prepares to meet one of the New York Rangers, New York Islanders or New Jersey Devils when the second round begins next week.

The Senators ran away from Pittsburgh in only the first and final games of the series, but held the overall edge every way it can be measured: special teams, goaltending, scoring chances and overall team discipline.

That's significant, because the talented young Penguins hit the playoffs riding a wave of enthusiasm from an unexpectedly good season and as one of the hottest teams in hockey.

While the Penguins displayed tremendous talent from young players such as Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin during the series, it was experience and depth that won the day for Ottawa.

Pittsburgh put up its best effort Tuesday night in Game 4 but looked defeated by the middle of Game 5 when Ottawa had a 2-0 lead en route to a 3-0 win and a first-round victory for the second year in a row.

The Senators got goals from Dany Heatley, Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly during a three-goal second period before shutting the Pens down in the third in front of goaltender Ray Emery, who got his first playoff shutout.

"I definitely felt more confident as the series went on," Emery said.

This series will no doubt be recalled as Crosby's playoff baptism but it might best be remembered for the way Ottawa's depth players seized the day. In a series that included some superstar talent, forwards such as Kelly, Mike Comrie, Christoph Schubert and defenceman Joe Corvo were as important to Ottawa's victory as anyone.

Comrie and Kelly combined for six goals, the same total as Malkin, Crosby and Staal combined. Meanwhile, scoring from Pittsburgh's secondary forwards was non-existent.

While Crosby had his moments, the defence tandem of Chris Phillip and Anton Volchenkov held him to only one game-changing moment, that in the third period of Game 2, which turned out to be Crosby's only meaningful goal.

"We took away his drive [to the net]," Murray said. "I thought our defence really did a fine job there."

Crosby attributed his team's loss to its failure to capitalize at key moments. At the top of that list would be scoring only one goal through two periods of domination in Game 4 and failing to score on two five-on-three power plays during the opening few minutes of Game 5.

"We gave them chances to hang around the last couple of games," Crosby said. "If we'd scored a couple of big goals, [the series] is 3-2 for us. It's just a matter of us not executing at key times. [This season] was a big turnaround. We're proud of the way we prepared for this season and really came together. Maybe [losing] is something that needed to happen."

The Penguins had scored more power-play goals than any team during the regular season. The Senators countered that by avoiding bad penalties and then holding Pittsburgh to only four power-play goals on 28 chances during the series, including none on 17 chances in the final three games.

"Look at the regular season and they got a lot of power-play goals against us and that was the difference," said Ottawa forward Mike Fisher. "When we shut down the power play that's a huge part of their offence. We kind of frustrated them."

Also of note is the manner in which Ottawa remained calm in those few times against the Penguins when things didn't go their way, showing no signs of bending under the pressure of expectations. One of those instances occurred during first 10 minutes of Game 5 when Pittsburgh held a 7-0 shots-on-goal advantage.

"That's where you find out a lot about your team," Murray said. "Pittsburgh came out strong in Game 4 and we weathered that and came out with the win. Tonight we took penalties early and were not as poised as I wanted, but it tells you a lot about the group the way we dug down."

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