The Pittsburgh Penguins trailed 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators after the first period and came back to score six unanswered goals to win Game 4 Wednesday night, 7-3. Pittsburgh now takes a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals as they look to close the series on home ice Friday night at the Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins were powered by James Neal and Jarome Iginla who each scored twice and Kris Letang added four assists. Letang’s stellar night helped him pass Boston Bruins’ defenseman Zdeno Chara for the top scoring defenseman in the playoffs.
Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves and improved to 5-1 in this postseason since taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury in the first round.
Ottawa drew first blood on a short-handed goal by Milan Michalek at 2:29 of the first period when he beat Vokoun glove-side on a breakaway.
Later that period, Pittsburgh got on the board at 14:56 thanks to Neal’s first on a scramble off the face-off.
Kyle Turris notched his fifth of the playoffs just over a minute later to give the Senators a 2-1 lead.
“I think we were a little bit on our heels, they came out of the gate pretty hard,” Letang said in the post-game. “We had to regroup, play the right way and make sure we got the puck deep.”
Pittsburgh took complete control of the game at both ends of the ice at that point. They got goals from Chris Kunitz, Iginla (2), Neal, Pascal Dupuis (short-handed) and Sidney Crosby.
After Crosby’s goal which gave Pittsburgh a 6-2 lead, Craig Anderson was pulled for the second time in this series and was replaced by Robin Lehner at 8:39 of the third period. Anderson allowed six goals on 32 shots after an extraordinary performance in Game 3 when he allowed just one goal on 50 shots in their 2-1 overtime win.
“[Anderson] was really good in the first, he made some key saves,” Letang said. “We kept going at it, we put the puck in his feet and tried to get to the rebound and it actually worked.”
Special teams have played a huge part in the Penguins’ success in the playoffs. They have scored 12 power-play goals and have killed just under 90 percent of penalties through ten games. Despite failing to score a powerplay goal in Game 3 and getting off to a slow 0-for-2 start in the first period of Game 4, Pittsburgh is still one of the most dangerous teams with the man-advantage.
“It starts with [Crosby] and [Malkin] and Letang at the point, they have three quarterbacks but all can shoot the puck,” Iginla said. “They found a place for me, it’s fun to be a part of.”
Head Coach Dan Bylsma made a few lineup adjustments going into Game 4. Brenden Morrow and Tanner Glass were scratched and replaced by Beau Bennett and Jussi Jokinen who recorded an assist on Iginla’s second goal.
With so many stars through the Pittsburgh lineup, many were glad to see Neal come through after being somewhat invisible on the score sheet as of late.
“I think it was really big for him to find that puck and get that [first] goal for us and even on the powerplay he was able to find space where he can be effective for us,” Bylsma said in his press conference.
Momentum surely seems to favor the Penguins now as they head back home for Game 5 Friday night in what is expected to be another sellout crowd at the Consol Energy Center.
Ekiert’s three stars:
3. Jarome Iginla; Penguins, Right Wing- 2 Goals
2. James Neal; Penguins, Left Wing- 2 Goals, Assist
1. Kris Letang; Penguins, Defense- 4 Assists