The Pittsburgh Penguins torched the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday afternoon and moved to within a win of advancing back to the Stanley Cup Final to defend their crown.
Matt Murray made 21 saves for the shutout in his second start in these playoffs, while seven different Penguins scored in the 7-0 thrashing.
It began with a blitz in the first period as the Penguins scored four goals on 15 shots, quickly putting the game out of reach like the Senators had with their own offensive explosion back in Game 3.
After Sidney Crosby struck in a third consecutive game to double the lead four minutes later with a tip on the power play, the Senators’ teetering defensive-zone coverage completely collapsed. The Penguins hemmed them in their own end for more than two minutes before another atrocious failed exit led to Nick Bonino winding up in a dangerous area. His shot caught the inside of Bryan Rust’s leg and evaded Craig Anderson, briefly sending the netminder to the chair at the end of Ottawa’s bench.
Mike Condon came out to replace Anderson, and made one save before Guy Boucher surprised by returning his starter returned during a stoppage. It backfired almost instantaneously, as Scott Wilson shovelled a rebound back toward the front of the net, which bounced in off Anderson, who was late to seal his post, to make it 4-0.
He finished the period, but was replaced for good to start the second.
Before two minutes elapsed in the period, the Senators suffered another breakdown in their defensive-zone coverage. Matt Cullen hopped off the bench during more sustained pressure and darted toward the front of the net unmarked before burying Mark Streit’s feed from behind the goal line past Condon.
It was 5-0, and Carter Rowney had three assists in 22 minutes of game action, which in itself was surely enough to evidence to be convinced that this wasn’t Ottawa’s night.
Unlike the Penguins, who took one back when they fell behind 5-0 in Game 3, the Senators sunk further in the third. Crosby found Phil Kessel with a gorgeous no-look backhand pass through the crease for the sniper to bang home.
Trevor Daley tacked on the seventh, and the Penguins’ third on the power play, near the midway mark of the third period, while Ottawa failed on the man advantage for a 28th consecutive time.
There was one potentially significant development in the moments that followed Pittsburgh’s scoring surge, and one that could see things get much worse for the Senators.
Erik Karlsson twisted his ankle when he was tangled up with Wilson late in the second period, and did not return to the game. He did say after the game that he will be available for Game 6, and, in previous instances in these playoffs, has taken the opportunity to rest his injured foot in lieu of logging meaningless minutes.
Game 6 is Tuesday in Ottawa.