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SENATORS at PENGUINS
(Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series 3-1)
Big story — What a difference a week makes. One week ago, there was worry — if not panic — in Pittsburgh after Ottawa beat the Penguins 5-4 in the series opener. But as the Penguins come home for Game 5, there's a sense of anticipation after three consecutive wins over the Senators, including 4-2 and 7-4 victories at Ottawa in which the Penguins never trailed and looked increasingly dominant as time went by.
Senators — Ottawa's offence finally showed up again in Game 4 but by the time the Senators began finding the back of the net, they were trailing 4-0. Ottawa got four goals in the final 33 minutes, but couldn't put a lid on Sidney Crosby and Co. Coach Cory Clouston pulled starter Brian Elliott in favor of Pascal Leclaire, but it didn't stem the tide of Pittsburgh goals.
"Being down 3-1, it's a tough position to be in to come back," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "It doesn't happen a lot. You just know that if you don't give it your all, it's not going to happen. We're going to go in there, and it's one game. All we can do is try to bring it back here to Ottawa (for a potential Game 6 on Saturday) and then take it from there."
Clouston is putting the Senators' fortunes tonight in the hands of Leclaire, who will make his first career Stanley Cup playoff start.
Penguins — The Pens' job is simple — keep their eye on the prize, which in this case will be some time off if they can complete a five-game blitz of the reeling Senators, who have shown no signs of being able to slow down the defending champions.
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That doesn't mean coach Dan Bylsma or his players are ready to claim victory.
"Playoff series are all about getting four wins and trying to get there as quickly as you possibly can," Bylsma said. "They are playing very hard. They are coming at us physically, and it has been demanding that way. We are going to expect more of that. We still think that we can play better. There are areas of our game that we are talking about where we can get better, and we want to make sure that we are doing that."
Who's hot — Ottawa centre Matt Cullen, a late-season acquisition, has two goals and six points in four games, tops on the Senators … No one in the playoffs is hotter than Crosby, whose 11 points (four goals, seven assists) are the most of anyone through the first week of the post-season. But Evgeni Malkin has also been producing, scoring four goals in as many games. Defenceman Sergei Gonchar has six assists.
Injury report — Pittsburgh forward Tyler Kennedy, who left early in Game 3 after a hit by Andy Sutton, has a lower body injury and is day-to-day. Defenceman Jordan Leopold, who hasn't played since being hit in the head by Sutton during the first period of Game 2, is also listed as day-to-day … Ottawa has been hampered by the absence of top-six forwards Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek, both of whom are gone for the playoffs after knee surgery.
Stat pack — Perhaps the only thing that can slow down the Penguins is history. They're 2-4 in the last six games in which they have the opportunity to eliminate an opponent in a non-Game 7 situation. That includes a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia in the first round last year.
Puck drop — After an opening-night hiccup, the Penguins reasserted themselves as defending Stanley Cup champions, increasing their domination as the series has progressed. Ottawa hasn't gotten the kind of goaltending that can steal games in the postseason, and unless that happens, the Senators will be booking tee times by the weekend. They will need a vastly improved effort across the board to send the series back to Ottawa.