Offensive Explosion Boosts Penguins to 3-1 Series Lead Over Senators

Penguins vs Senators - 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs

After choking away Game 3 in Ottawa, the Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back with their best offensive outing of the playoffs to move to the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals. The star studded Pens came from behind to score a whopping seven goals to earn the 7-3 victory. Though the finally healthy Senators looked primed to make this a long series, they were simply overwhelmed by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla and James Neal.

Penguins vs Senators - 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
May 22 2013 Ottawa ON CAN Pittsburgh Penguins centre Brandon Sutter 16 recovers the rebound following a shot on Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson 41 in the third period in game four of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at Scotiabank Place The Penguins defeated the Senators by a score of 7 3 Marc DesRosiers USA TODAY Sports

Game 4 began much like Game 3 ended, with the Senators snatching a shorthanded goal. Just two and a half minutes into the action, a flying Milan Michalek split two Penguins before slotting the puck by Tomas Vokoun to give the Senators the early lead. With the momentum and the crowd on their side it looked as if the Senators might be able to steal another game at home in Ottawa, turning the series into a best-of-three.

Despite Ottawa’s early success, the Penguins still managed to produce the lion’s share of the chances, with Sidney Crosby constantly pestering Craig Anderson. Anderson was strong early on but seemingly wore down throughout the game, beginning with James Neal’s first period goal, which came five minutes before the first intermission.

Neal collected the puck near the boards on an offensive zone faceoff and caught the Senators sleeping as he swept the puck into the slot and picked out the top right corner of the net, just over Anderson’s glove. At the time Neal’s goal failed to portend the final score as the Senators answered back by way of Kyle Turris, who found a loose puck in front of a gaping net following a Jakob Silfverberg shot.

The second period remained tight, though the Penguins began to show their advantage. Both Chris Kunitz and Jarome Iginla scored to give the Pens their first lead of the game. Though the Senators trailed at the second intermission, they certainly could not have imagined what was about to happen next.

Over the next ten minutes, the Penguins scored four times as they ran the Senators out of the building. First, James Neal netted his second of the game on the power play. Then Pascal Dupuis followed up with a shorthanded strike to make it 5-2. 31 seconds later, Sidney Crosby broke through to send Craig Anderson to the bench.

In two and a half periods, Anderson faced 38 shots and surrendered six goals. Despite his strong efforts early on, the continued onslaught was simply too much. Backup Robin Lehner failed to stop the bleeding, giving up Jarome Iginla’s second of the game soon after coming on. Having surrendered six unanswered goals, the demoralized Senators looked desperate to retreat.

The lone bright spot for the Senators in the third was captain Daniel Alfredsson, who converted a garbage time power play for his 100th career playoff point. The 40-year-old Swede has never hoisted the Cup and could see his career end with a potential Game 5 defeat. When asked by’s Erin Nicks about whether or not the Sens can win the series, the long-time captain admitted “probably not. They have too much depth.”

Meanwhile the Penguins once again looked like offensive juggernauts. Their performance was epitomized by star defender Kris Letang who was partially to blame for both of the Senators first period goals but redeemed himself with four assists. The Penguins will never play elite defense, but perhaps they can score enough goals to hoist the cup for the second time in the Crosby era.

Dan Bylsma‘s club now joins the Boston Bruins, who hold a 3-0 series lead against the New York Rangers, as an odds-on favorite to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. A potential Penguins-Bruins series would be packed with drama in the wake of the Jarome Iginla trade deadline saga. Iginla spurned the Bruins in April, opting to join the Penguins instead, gambling that Crosby and Malkin could carry him to a title. The Bruins would love nothing more than to prove him wrong.

For now both teams have business to take care of. The Bruins can sweep the Rangers with a Game 4 victory tonight at Madison Square Garden, and the Penguins will return home Friday with a chance to clinch the series. The Senators once again find themselves battling against the odds, but they have shown the ability to prove doubters wrong throughout the season. They will be tasked with proving the old adage that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

author avatar
Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard is a Boston, MA native and a student at Davidson College. He began writing about hockey as a Boston Bruins featured columnist for Bleacher Report in the fall of 2012. He has been covering the NHL for XN Sports since May of 2013. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');