Mike Comrie, Chris Neil, Dany Heatley, Tom Preissing, Chris Kelly and Andrej Meszaros scored as the Ottawa Senators dominated from start to finish Wednesday night in a 6-3 win to open their best-of-seven, first-round playoff series with Sidney Crosby and the upstart Penguins.
Ray Emery had to make only 23 saves for the win and captain Daniel Alfredsson, who chipped in with an assist, was a force throughout, much to the delight of 19,611 fans at Scotiabank Place who hope this is finally the year after a decade of playoff disappointments.
Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby scored for Pittsburgh, which got bottled up by the Senators and rarely threatened. Crosby, playing on a line with Colby Armstrong and Gary Roberts, was largely a non-factor, held in check by the defensive pair of Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips.
Game 2 goes Saturday (3 p.m. ET).
Much has been made of Crosby’s first-ever playoff but it was also Marc-Andre Fleury’s first post-season foray. And it showed early on with first-period jitters as Fleury looked very shaky.
The Senators came out buzzing and pinned the Penguins in their end right off the bat, scoring on the second shift of the game at 1:37 when Meszaros hammered a loose puck past Fleury, who tripped himself and was out of position.
Fleury was fighting the puck but then made a huge pad save at the five-minute mark on Christoph Schubert on a Senators’ 2-on-1 break. He followed that up with a nice glove save off Alfredsson from in close a few moments later.
But Kelly made it 2-0 at 6:38, slipping a shot between Fleury’s legs after Penguins defenceman Rob Scuderi failed the clear the puck.
So one-sided was the opening period that Ottawa’s fourth line, for example, of Dean McAmmond between Schubert and Parick Eaves overpowered Pittsburgh’s second unit of Evgeni Malkin with Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi, keeping the puck the Penguins zone with a sharp cycle and then drawing two Pittsburgh penalties, handing the Sens a 5-on-3 power play at 11:09. The Pens did manage to kill it.
The Sens got another two-man advantage late in the period and again weren’t able to score. The Sens outshot the Pens 16-4 in the first and could have been up by four or five goals, just missing on a number of chances.
Ottawa connected with a one-man advantage with 5:22 to go in the second, Preissing taking a feed from Jason Spezza and rifling a shot high to the glove side from the right faceoff circle.
The Penguins finally woke up down 3-0, pressing the Senators really for the first time in the game and it paid off when Staal poked a loose puck under Emery with 3:02 left in the second, a goal that brought life to the Penguins bench.
But the Sens came out roaring in the third, Heatley re-directing Alfredsson’s shot only nine seconds in to restore Ottawa’s three-goal lead at 4-1. It was game over.
Crosby thought he had his first career playoff goal on the very next shift but a video review ruled it was kicked in and it was disallowed.
Neil made it 5-1 on a breakaway at 5:39, a goal that came off a Georges Laraque giveaway. Comrie one-timed a nice pass from Peter Schaeffer at 8:22 to make it 6-1.
A few shifts later Pens coach Michel Therrien lifted Fleury from the net in favour of Jocelyn Thibault.
Gonchar scored on a two-man advantage at 12:42 before Crosby added a late power-play marker at 19:11.
Notes: Joel Kwiatkowski, Chris Thorburn, Ronald Petrovicky, Nils Ekman and Alain Nasreddine were scratches for Pittsburgh while Lawrence Nycholat, Brian McGrattan and deadline acquisition Oleg Saprykin were left behind by Ottawa . . . It’s the first playoff series between both clubs although their AHL clubs faced off in the Calder Cup playoffs in 2005 . . . The Senators are 4-1 all-time in playoff series against Atlantic Division teams, beating New Jersey in 1998, Philadelphia in 2002 and ’03 and the New York Islanders in ’03, losing in the conference final to the Devils in ’03 . . . It was Pittsburgh’s first playoff game since 2001.