OTTAWA – In the end, the Pittsburgh Penguins were just too much for the Ottawa Senators to handle.
The Penguins scored four unanswered goals on their way to a 4-3 victory over the Senators Saturday night, winning their Eastern Conference quarter-final series 4-2.
Pascal Dupuis scored the game winner at 9:56 of overtime, beating Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire with a quick wrist shot.
“That Leclaire, he played well and didn’t give us much all night,” said Penguins defenceman Kris Letang. “It was probably going to be a shot like that or a rebound that was going to beat him.”
Home ice was not a huge factor in this series as the Penguins had won just once at Mellon Arena and the Senators were winless at Scotiabank Place.
Last year on the way to the Stanley Cup the Penguins closed out all of their series on the road.
“We get down 3-0, but we draw on the experience of last game and last year and stuck with it and did the things that we needed to do and stayed confident,” said Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke. “This is a different year and you still have to go out and accomplish it again.”
The Penguins admitted they were more than a little happy to end the series in six games rather than having to return home for a seventh. The extra few days rest will go a long way in resting some weary bodies after the triple overtime of Game 5.
Cooke, with two goals, and Bill Guerin scored for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 shots.
The Senators’ top line showed signs of life as Matt Cullen and Daniel Alfredsson each scored, but it wasn’t enough. Chris Neil also scored for Ottawa.
“It seems like we had momentum and we were playing great to start the game, but then we start to sit back a little bit too much,” said Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. “It just makes it real frustrating. You get that lead and its human nature to maybe get a little too passive as a group. It’s just tough losing that way when you have a lead like that.”
After the game Alfredsson admitted he had been playing with a torn abdominal muscle.
Leclaire made 38 saves in just his second playoff start. He is winless at home since December 31st?a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders.
“It’s disappointing, but I think we did fight hard to get back in the series,” said Leclaire. “We played a pretty solid team. They won last year and definitely know how to win.”
While Crosby dominated the series with 14 points, he was held pointless in Game 6 and was on the ice for all three Ottawa goals.
“We’ve got to be responsible out there,” said Crosby.
Much like Game 5, the Senators dominated play in the first period and came out with a 1-0 lead on a breakaway goal by Cullen at 5:19.
Leclaire continued his solid play and made a number of key saves, none as big as the one on Michael Rupp that required an extensive review to determine whether the puck had crossed the goal line.
The Senators’ third line continued to produce as Neil picked up his third goal of the series before the second period was two minutes old. Chris Kelly had a chance in front, forcing Fleury to lunge forward and Neil picked up the rebound, lifting it over Fleury’s right leg.
The Penguins had a brief scare as Crosby left the game after colliding with Anton Volchenkov and falling on Leclaire’s skate, but he returned shortly thereafter.
Ottawa jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the period when Alfredsson found himself all alone with the puck, beating Fleury glove side.
“I think with the team that we have we can’t quit,” said Fleury. “No matter what the score is we have some good players in this room and we always have got to believe that we can come back and we did a good job tonight.”
The Penguins scored 68 seconds later as Cooke was able to dig the puck out from a scramble just above the crease. Cooke quickly slipped it behind Leclaire to make it 3-1.
Ottawa believed it had regained its three-goal lead with just under four minutes remaining, but once again the goal was called back after review as the net was off its moorings before the puck crossed the line.
The Penguins made it 3-2 with a power-play goal at the seven-minute mark of the third. Guerin beat Leclaire over the shoulder while the Sens goalie was forced to play with a regular stick after his had broken in half earlier on the power play.
Cooke scored his second to tie the game with just under eight minutes remaining in regulation. Leclaire made the first save on Mark Eaton, but was unable to get across in time to stop Cooke.
Experience definitely came into play for the Penguins on this night as they maintained composure and confidence despite falling behind early.
“Even tonight we left the first two periods behind and came out with our best in the third,” said Jordan Staal. “It just shows the character on this team.”
Notes: The Senators were without D Filip Kuba (lower body, season), LW Milan Michalek (knee, season), RW Alex Kovalev (knee, season). RW Jonathan Cheechoo, RW Ryan Shannon and D Brian Lee were healthy scratches. The Penguins were without D Jordan Leopold (head, day-to-day), D Ben Lovejoy, D Deryk Engelland, LW Ruslan Fedotenko, RW Eric Godard were healthy scratches. RW Chris Conner was recalled from the Penguins Scranton Wilkes-Barre affiliate Friday and was in the lineup. … Olympic gold medallist John Morris of the Canadian men’s curling team was on hand for the game.