#60 Ottawa Senatorsvs.#59 Pittsburgh Penguins
Written by Valdis Pans
Pittsburgh Penguins (61-25-8-5) vs. Ottawa Senators (54-34-7-4)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Where: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario
Lines: Pittsburgh -154 / Ottawa Senators +130
Having taken a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators, the Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves just one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final, with Game 6 taking place in Ontario…
The Pittsburgh Penguins (61-25-13) were coming into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators on the back of four losses in their past seven outings, scoring just 12 goals during that stretch (1.71 per contest). They did, however, confirm their current Stanley Cup champion status at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday, taking a 3-2 series lead with a devastating seven-goal shutout. Seven different players got on the scoresheet, including Sidney Crosby (56 goals, 156 points in 140 post-season contests), who also grabbed his 100th playoff assist, becoming just the 22nd player in NHL history to do so. Evgeni Malkin (54 goals, 152 points in his post-season career) notched up three helpers and played in his 141st playoff game, passing Jaromir Jagr for most in Penguins history.
Olli Maatta (2 goals, 18 points in 48 post-season fixtures), Bryan Rust (12 goals, 16 points in 38 playoff outings) and Scott Wilson (2 goals, 4 points in 16 post-season appearances) joined Crosby on the first-period scoring chart. Matt Cullen (18 goals, 53 points in 115 playoff matchups) netted in the second frame, while Phil Kessel (30 goals, 61 points in 63 post-season contributions) and Trevor Daley (6 goals, 16 points in 63 playoff games) finished off the rout in the third. Goalie Matt Murray, who has gone 17-6 in his post-season career with a 1.97 GAA and a .927 save percentage, made 25 saves for his second shutout in the playoffs. He is 2-0 for the current campaign with a 1.08 GAA and a .958 save percentage. The Penguins, meanwhile, are top of the ongoing post-season in most goals netted per fixture (3.18), 6th in least goals allowed on average (2.35), 2nd best in power play with a 25.0% success rate (13-for-52) and 7th in penalty kill with 86.0% efficiency (43-for-50).
Craig Anderson, the goalie of the Ottawa Senators (54-34-11), who turned 36 on Sunday, had arguably one of the worst birthdays of his life when his team faced the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at PPG Paints Arena. Not only the Sens were thrashed with a final score of 7-0, but he himself got pulled twice, finishing the outing with 10 saves on 14 shots. Anderson, who has gone 22-21 in all previous post-season contests combined with a 2.38 GAA and a .927 save percentage, was pulled for Mike Condon after Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead in the first 16 minutes of the game and allowed another goal before the first intermission after coming back on just 1:28 minutes later. He is 10-7 for the ongoing playoff term with a 2.44 GAA and a .916 save percentage. Condon, meanwhile, allowed three goals on 22 shots in his second career post-season appearance.
The Senators were outshot 36-25, went 0-for-4 on power play and were not able to kill any of the three man-advantage opportunities by the Penguins, who scored one goal more than in all previous four outings of this series combined. After going 5-0 down after the first two periods, defensemen Erik Karlsson (6 goals, 34 points in 46 playoff contests) and Cody Ceci (no goals, 3 points in 23 post-season fixtures), alongside centre Derrick Brassard (22 goals, 55 points in 76 playoff outings), who all picked up injuries during the game, were told to sit out the final third as a precaution. All three are set to return for Game 6, prior to which the Sens are sitting 8th in least goals scored per matchup during the ongoing post-season (2.53), 7th in most goals given up on average (2.71), 3rd from the bottom in power play with a 10.7% turnaround (6-for-56) and 10th in penalty kill with 81.8% expertise (45-for-55).
It seems the Penguins have finally found their somewhat lost mojo. And it strangely has coincided with the return of Matt Murray in the goal. The Senators will not be an easy target on their own ice, having won four of their last five domestic outings. Four of those games have been decided by a single goal, though. So, if Pittsburgh arrives all guns blazing, as it did at home in Game 5, Ottawa will need a good plan B…
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Valdis got his first ever article published when he was 13, and has rarely stopped. He has worked for FHM, MTV Baltics and has done loads of freelance (from columns for Cosmopolitan magazine to helping with organization of Macy Gray’s shows in the Northern Europe). Speaks five different languages, loves pizza, American Horror Story and pipe organ music, and knows European soccer better than dates of his family members’ birthdays. Is an avid fan of ice-hockey too. He is a Latvian after all...