The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on Wednesday night to complete a 4-game series sweep and became the first team to advance to round two of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the Penguins it was sweet redemption for last year’s early exit in in the first round of the playoffs courtesy of these same Ottawa Senators. This season, a more experienced, complete and confident Penguins team took full advantage of a wounded and struggling Ottawa as they outshot them 161-112 and outscored them 16-5 in 4-games. The victory completed the first playoff series sweep for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 16-years, and its first playoff series win since 2001. The last sweep came in 1992 as the Penguins swept Boston and then Chicago enroute to its second consecutive Stanley Cup victory.
There was no scoring in the 1st period despite the Penguins 14-5 domination in shots. The Penguins were afforded one power play opportunity in the period, but failed to convert. Marian Hossa notched 7 of the Penguins’ shots on goal for the period.
In the 2nd period, the Penguins got on the board early as they converted on a power play opportunity at 1:40. Evgeni Malkin collected his own rebound after Martin Gerber stopped his shot on a Sidney Crosby cross-crease pass and tapped the puck in on his second attempt. It was Malkin’s 2nd goal of the series and 7th point. Sergei Gonchar and Sidney Crosby picked up the assists. Then at 10:31, Cory Stillman beat Marc-Andre Fleury to tie it up. Wayne Redden and Anton Volchenkov were credited with the assists. At 15:28, the Penguins regained the lead on an even strength goal by Jarkko Ruutu, his first of the playoffs. Tyler Kennedy caught Ruutu with an up ice pass that almost gave him a clean breakaway. With Senators’ defenseman Brian Lee tying him up as he drove to the net, Ruutu quickly spun around to the backhand and slipped the puck through Gerber’s five-hole to make it 2-1. Kennedy had the only assist on the play. Late in the period, Antoine Vermette had a tying goal disallowed as the video reply clearly showed that he put the puck into the net off his skate with a distinct kicking motion. The Penguins again outshot the Senators 16-8 and went 1-for-3 on the power play. The Penguins killed off a lone hooking penalty to Ryan Malone.
In the 3rd period, the Senators pressed to stay alive but came up short. The Penguins offensive effort let up as the Senators outshot them 9-4, but it wasn’t enough to make the difference in the game. At 19:52 with Gerber pulled from the net for the extra attacker, Sidney Crosby took advantage of a turnover and shot the puck into the empty net from mid-ice to seal the game and the series.
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The Penguins’ stars more than lived up to expectations in this 4-game series. Leading the pack was Captain Sidney Crosby who put up 8-points (2G, 6A). On his heels was Evgeni Malkin with 7-points (2G, 5A). Ryan Malone (2G, 3A) and Marian Hossa (1G, 4A) each put up 5-points, Petr Sykora (3G) added 3-points, and Sergei Gonchar (1G, 1A) had 2-points. Marc-Andre Fleury let in just 5-goals on 112-shots for an incredible 0.955 save percentage and 1.26 goals against average. Just as importantly, the Penguins found contributions from the lower lines as well with Jarkko Ruutu (1G, 1A), Max Talbot (1G, 1A), Gary Roberts (2G), and Jordan Staal (1G) all contributing.
The Penguins will now get a lengthy rest while the other first round series play out. The Penguins will face off against one of Boston, New Jersey or the New York Rangers next, depending upon how the series’ play out. If Boston can overcome their 3-1 defecit and beat Montreal, the Penguins would meet them in the 2nd round. Otherwise, the Penguins will play the winner of the New Jersey Devils/New York Rangers series. Regardless of who they meet, the Penguins will maintain the home ice advantage. The series will begin sometime next week.