7:30 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Penguins broke the door down in Ottawa on Wednesday night and really put a lot of doubt in the series with a 7-3 win. It was a close game in the first period with Craig Anderson stealing the show but that show was off the air for the final two periods as they chased him from the net for the second time in the series and forced the Senators to now win the next three games if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Going into this one it seems as if the Penguins are going to stay true to form with the same lineup. A good call as they might have played their most complete game of the playoffs on Wednesday night. The only tweak I could see happening is if Brenden Morrow comes back from what is being speculated as a bad shoulder/arm but if he decided to sit out and rest up another game and let Beau Bennett go out there and play then I don't think there would be anyone that would complain.
On the Ottawa side they are making some pretty sweeping changes in terms of line combinations. They are going big and loading up the top like with Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. I am not really sure what that is going to bring since Spezza is not himself and hasn't been good in the games he has come back so while they are going to get a lot of fluff from the name recognition but this doesn't really worry me all that much.
Colin Greening has had a really nice series and the second line with Kyle Turris and Erik Condra might be their best if the Penguins are going to take away that top line but all told I just don't think they have enough talent to carry this team. The Penguins have the top line of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis and when they are held down (like they have been at times this series) then you can roll out a second line with Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Jarome Iginla. So, yea, not a bad second line there.
Really this is going to have to be the Craig Anderson show. The Ottawa defense is starting to have a really tough time with the Penguins forwards and while that isn't a huge surprise they aren't doing a very good job of limiting the Penguins chances and when they aren't doing that then Anderson needs to be nearly perfect for them to have a chance in this game. Anderson has really only been good in one of the first four games of this series and it is not a coincidence as to when the Ottawa win came from. Anderson is good but he can't keep bailing this defense out.
The Penguins haven't closed out a series on home ice in some time. While I don't think that means anything and it will have zero to do with what happens tonight it will be the talk of the town the entire game. The Penguins give up an early goal and people will scream from the rooftop that there is some sort of curse at the CONSOL Energy Center which will be amazingly frustrating. That being said it would be great if the Penguins could wrap this up tonight. This would be the first series to end in this round and while I don't think an extended rest is mandatory it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a longer break before the conference finals.
Ottawa is going to come out strong. They have to. Despite what Alfredsson said after game four they are going to be playing like their career depends on it. The Penguins just need to play their game because they have proven that Ottawa can't hang with them and they know it.
Pittsburgh (7-3 in playoffs) (via Penguins website)
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jarome Iginla - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Beau Bennett - Jussi Jokinen - Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Kris Letang - Matt Niskanen
Mark Eaton - Douglas Murray
Ottawa (5-4 in playoffs) (via Penguins website)
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Erik Condra
Zack Smith - Mika Zibanejad - Jakob Silvferberg
Matt Kassian - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Chris Neil
Marc Méthot - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Andre Benoit
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
The Series (Pittsburgh leads 3-1)
May 22, 2013 - Pittsburgh 7, Ottawa 3
May 19, 2013 - Ottawa 2, Pittsburgh 1 (2 OT) May 17, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 3 May 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 1 The Stats: