The second round of the playoffs got underway last night and the Pittsburgh Penguins took full advantage of home ice to grab a 1-0 lead in the series.
Pittsburgh’s power play and penalty killing units were on their game and helped to power the team to a 4-1 win in Game 1.
Paul Martin, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis scored for the Penguins, who improved to 4-0 against the Senators this year.
While Tomas Vokoun may not have been as sharp as he had been in Games 5 and 6 against the Islanders, he got the job done and made 35 saves in the win. I’m not saying Vokoun played poorly, but he did leave some juicy rebounds in the slot.
However, what impressed me the most was how the defense corps tied up sticks and bodies so the Senators could not benefit from the rebounds.
Without the benefit of television replays because I was at the game, there seemed to be a couple of very debatable calls against the Penguins, specifically James Neal. To their credit, the Penguins didn’t appear to be phased by it and were able to kill off all five power play chances for the Senators.
Pascal Dupuis had another great game for the Penguins and was rewarded for his efforts by going top shelf on Craig Anderson on a shorthanded 2-on-1 chance in the third period. The goal put the Penguins up 4-1 and squashed any thoughts of a late comeback by Ottawa.
Not to mention, the goal was Dupuis’ sixth of the playoffs. He’s now one ahead of Boston’s David Krejci and Chicago’s Patrick Sharp for the league lead.
Conversely, the Penguins went 2-for-4 on the power play in addition to the shorthanded tally by Dupuis.
My only real complaint from Game 1 is that the Penguins were not able to generate a whole lot during 5-on-5 situations. The same held true against the New York Islanders in Round 1. The difference last night was that the Penguins were not turning the puck over at will.
Ottawa’s forecheck was pretty lackluster in comparison to what the Islanders did to the Pens, but they were definitely making an effort to shut down the long stretch pass option.
By the middle of the second period, the Senators had picked up on the stretch pass and began to hang a couple of players back to combat it.
While the Senators controlled most of the 5-on-5 play in the game, most of their scoring chances were held to the outside. There were only a couple of good scoring chances from the slot or high point areas, which you have to give the Penguins credit for.
Perhaps most notable in the game was the fact the Senators just are not as fast as the Islanders. They may not be able to execute as aggressively on the forecheck as the Islanders were because they simply don’t have the same speed. Sure, they have a couple guys who can fly, but the Islanders were able to roll four lines and barely lose anything in the speed department.
Also to the Penguins credit, they put pucks behind Anderson. They got bodies in front of him and crashed the crease when possible. Kunitz’s power play goal wasn’t pretty, but it shows what happens when you get the puck on net and crash for rebounds.
Pittsburgh was physical and were able to keep their emotions in check for the most part, even with Chris Neil up to us usual tricks.
Neil caught Joe Vitale in the neutral zone at least twice and went after Sidney Crosby near the Ottawa bench at one point. You know what you’re getting with a guy like Neil. He’s going to do whatever he can to stir the pot and he’s been known to put a puck in every once in a while.
So, it should come as no surprise that a scrum broke out with about 30 seconds to go and Mr. Neil was in the middle of it all.
Bottom line, the Penguins need to let Neil do what Neil does. He’ll eventually cross the line and end up in the box. Hit him when you have a chance to do so legally, but he wants people to retaliate.
Much like Round 1, I doubt we’ll see the same effort from the Senators in Game 2. I’m sure they’ll go back and make adjustments and come out with a purpose to try and even the series before returning home for Games 3 and 4.
However, it will be up to the Penguins to match the effort they put into Game 1 to take a 2-0 series lead on Friday.
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