After Pittsburgh limped through their first round win over the New York Islanders, it was hard to know what to expect of them. Ditto the Senators, who trounced the second-seed Montreal Canadiens in just five games and came into the second round looking every bit an equal to the Pens.
In Game 1, at least, Pittsburgh's regular-season ownership of the Senators has continued into the playoffs.
Pittsburgh delivered on the power play with clockwork regularity, striking twice in three chances (and once while shorthanded) to stake themselves to a 4-1 win and another 1-0 series lead.
Evgeni Malkin, Paul Martin, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis scored for the Pens, who have now won each of Tomas Vokoun's three starts in these playoffs.
"I hope, every game, we play better," Malkin said. "But this game we [showed] how we can play better in the D-zone first of all, and score [a] couple of goals on the power play."
As they did to the Islanders in the Quarterfinals, the Penguins jumped on Ottawa early. Martin opened the scoring at just 2:41 of the first period, on the power play. Sidney Crosby's line created chances and drew a penalty on the first shift of the game, and Malkin took over the power play that ensued.
Malkin got his third of the playoffs later in the first period, as Pittsburgh controlled every aspect of the game through the first half of the first period. Though the Sens would end up outshooting Pittsburgh 14-12 in the first, Malkin's goal at 12:15 would stand as the game-winner.
"I try to play every game my best," Malkin said. "Maybe a little bit better [tonight]...[try to have] no turnovers, it's very important to me."
Malkin, who earned the game's first star and was easily the Pens' most effective forward, added two points again Tuesday. He now has 13 points in seven games this postseason, tied with David Krejci of Boston for the playoff lead, while his 10 assists pace the playoff field.
Along with Dupuis and Jarome Iginla, Malkin has scored at least once in each postseason game so far, and has two points in every contest but Game 5 against the Isles.
While Pittsburgh's early offense held up, the Senators gradually tilted the ice back in their favor, generating plenty of shots and disrupting Pittsburgh's stretch-pass breakout.
Ottawa got their chances -- they drew six minors and recorded 36 shots on goal -- but managed to convert just once on Vokoun, as Colin Greening scored his first of the playoffs in the first period.
Despite some rebound troubles and an early soft goal, Vokoun calmed the Pens and managed the game when it entered the Pens' zone.
"I think we controlled the game in the third, and for the most part kept them to the outside," Vokoun said. "Obviously they had a couple power plays, but we kept our third guy high and everybody was backchecking hard and it showed."
A question mark before the postseason began, Pittsburgh's PK has been equal to the task of its opponents. They stopped all six opportunities Saturday, bringing their postseason success rate to 92.0 percent (23-for-25).
That's third in the playoff field and trails only Chicago among still-active teams. It's a gaudy number for the Pens, who finished the regular season with the NHL's 25th-ranked PK (79.6 percent) and have posted a sub-75 percent PK in each of the last three postseasons.
While the Islanders and Senators didn't exactly feast on the power play in the regular season (the Islanders ranked 11th, the Senators 20th, in regular season power play success), the Pens have been better than advertised.
Part of that success is due to Vokoun.
Pittsburgh's backup is now 3-0 in three postseason starts after breaking a six-year postseason hiatus in Game 5 against the Islanders. Vokoun has allowed just four goals in those three games, and while the sample size is still small, his .962 save percentage and 1.28 goals against average lead all playoff goaltenders.
If there was a goalie controversy stirring, Vokoun has settled it, fighting off 101 of the 105 shots he's faced.
Pittsburgh has allowed plenty of shots this postseason, more than 33 per game. Vokoun, for his part, would rather face shots in quantity, rather than quality.
"They probably took 10 shots, outside shots, where you're just trying to put it on the net and sometimes the team's changing," Vokoun said. "I'm not so worried about how many shots we give up. We're more worried about what kind of shots and what time of [the] game and what's going on.
"Ottawa's a team who shoots, and so [were] the Islanders. You have some teams who [don't] shoot as much and it doesn't make it any easier, that way, but like I said, I think they took probably between 8 to 10 from the outside which brings the total a little bit up."
While Pittsburgh didn't put together a perfect effort, their fast start and a finely-tuned sense of opportunism led them to a comfortable Game 1 win.
Game 2, for some reason, is Friday.
Quotes/post-game audio courtesy Jason Seidling & Pittsburgh Penguins