Penguins top Senators, 4-1, to take series opener
Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates with Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring in the first period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) celebrates his goal with teammate Sidney Crosby (87) in the second period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Ottawa Senators' Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) celebrates with teammate Colin Greening (14) after scoring in the first period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH – Paul Martin and Chris Kunitz scored power-play goals and Pascal Dupuis added his sixth goal of the playoffs and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators, 4-1, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals yesterday.
Evgeni Malkin extended his points streak to seven games with a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh.
Game 2 is Friday night.
Tomas Vokoun stopped 35 shots to win his third straight start and top-seeded Pittsburgh never trailed.
Colin Greening scored for the Senators. Craig Anderson made 26 saves but Ottawa had no answer for Pittsburgh’s power play.
The Penguins are 9-of-24 with the man advantage through seven playoff games, best of the eight teams remaining in the postseason.
The Senators had the NHL’s best penalty kill during the regular season and turned aside 16 of 19 penalties against Montreal in the first round.
Pittsburgh was pushed to six games by the New York Islanders during a spirited first-round series in which the youthful Islanders had the Penguins on their heels at times.
Still, Pittsburgh advanced to the conference semifinals for the first time in three years behind the power play and a gutsy move by Coach Dan Bylsma to bench top goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and replace him with Vokoun.
The 36-year-old Vokoun made his 713th NHL start yesterday, but his first with the stakes this big. Despite admitting to some butterflies when told he would get the starting assignment for Game 1, Vokoun overcame some shaky moments early to settle down.
Having the lead most of the night certainly helped.
Pittsburgh didn’t need to wait long to get a chance to put the power play to work. Ottawa’s Kyle Turris drew a high-sticking penalty before the game was 90 seconds old, and barely a minute later, Pittsburgh jumped in front.
Malkin worked his way into the corner then threaded a pass between two Ottawa defenders to Martin at the point. Martin’s slap shot from the point deflected off Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen and scooted past Anderson just 2:41 into the game to give the Penguins an early lead.
The Senators didn’t take long to tie it, evening things at 1 on the kind of soft goal Vokoun had avoided during his two stellar starts against the Islanders.
Ottawa’s Erik Condra won a battle in the corner for the puck then threw it from behind the goal to the side of the net.
Vokoun, anticipating a crossing pass instead of a shot, found himself out of position. The puck squirted behind him and was inches from the goal line before Greening reached over the goaltender and poked it in.
Malkin responded with his third goal of the playoffs, though his linemates did all the hard work. James Neal poke-checked the puck away from Cowen behind the Ottawa net then fed it to Chris Kunitz.
Kunitz then zipped a pass to Malkin’s awaiting stick just outside the goal crease and all the reigning NHL MVP had to do was tap it in to put the Penguins back in front.
Ottawa, facing the Penguins for the fourth time in the postseason since 2007, had little trouble getting to Vokoun.
They even managed to get the puck by him a few times. Just not into the net. On several occasions Vokoun would find himself on the ground as the puck skittered through the crease or toward the goal. Each time it was steered out of danger.
Anderson wasn’t quite so fortunate. Pittsburgh went back to the power play late in the second period and Kunitz stuffed home a rebound off an Iginla shot to give the Penguins a 3-1 cushion.
Dupuis, whose five goals against the Islanders led the team, beat Anderson at the end of a short-handed 2-on-1 breakaway with 8:36 remaining to put it away.