With Tom Kuhnhackl and Chad Ruhwedel both out due to injuries, Head Coach Mike Sullivan had to dig a little deeper with his Penguins lines and — stop me if you heard this before — stretch the depth of his defensive pairings. Because of that fact, Mark Streit got another chance to prove himself after a disappointing performance in Game 3.
Lined up and ready to play. Let's Go Pens! pic.twitter.com/6ijRwewGzg— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 21, 2017
That being said, we saw some good news on the injury front with Big Time Playoff Guy Bryan Rust returning to the lineup as the right-winger with Nick Bonino and Carter Rowney on the third forward line. That’ll hopefully keep the offense hungry and charging, rather than setting back and being next-to-non-existent like we noticed them do a couple games back.
It’s also clear that Matt Murray officially earned back his net in Game 4 and will be the go-to starting goaltender for Pittsburgh from here on out.
Our mother Twitter was definitely keeping things light heading into puck drop.
Hello! Welcome to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, also known as the Everyone Is Broken Series™.— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) May 21, 2017
Ottawa came out of the gates with another aggressive start, but the Pens easily weathered it with a couple good rushes on their own. A fun, little factoid for the Senators’ lines was reported early on and probably had the attention of Sullivan:
Rust made a solid, early impression with a few great chances up front on Craig Anderson, as well as negating an icing to keep the offense pressing on (this was no doubt missed during his injury). Around the 16 minute mark, we saw the same typical NHL refs in the playoffs missing a very obvious too many men on the ice effort by the Sens on a messy line change. No whistle. Play went on.
“What’s the matter with Maatta?” Nothing, folks! The Finnish boy wonder buried his second goal in two games from the left circle off a beautiful feed by Rust. Pens went up 1-0 with 11:40 left to play in the first.
Olli Maatta blasts one past Craig Anderson, puts the Pens up 1-0 pic.twitter.com/DGHRhmhEkX— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 21, 2017
A soft tripping call on Matt Cullen sent Ottawa on its first power play of the game, but the ice seemed to tip in the Penguins’ favor after a speedy, breakaway try by Carl Hagelin was kicked aside by Anderson. Less than a minute later, Mark Stone was sent to the box for slashing. We had 4-on-4 play for about a minute.
Pittsburgh, for what seems like the first time this ECF series, continuously got behind the Senators’ defense. It proved fruitful as it dropped into the Sens’ zone, and on a great blue line keep and pass by Evgeni Malkin, the Russian center connected to Trevor Daley who sent a rocket to the net that got tipped in by Sidney Crosby. 2-0 Pittsburgh thanks to a power play tally.
Another day, another redirect off a goaltender for Sidney Crosby. pic.twitter.com/vR75PMCTT0— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 21, 2017
PPG Paints Arena was absolutely electric. The Penguins had complete control after that second goal, and Bonino capitalized on it off a horrible turnover by Ottawa right in front of its crease with a goal of his own. Pittsburgh went up three goals with less than four minutes to go in the first frame.
That seemed like enough for Ottawa Head Coach Guy Boucher, as he stripped Anderson of his rights as the Game 5 goalie. Mike Condon stepped in to take his place. That lasted maybe a minute. Anderson oddly returned almost immediately after the switch. The Senators still had absolutely no answer to the beating the Penguins were giving them.
Keeping Anderson in net was a really bad idea. A sharp angled shot slipped past the starting netminder for the fourth time this period by Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson. The Pens took a 4-0 lead, and this game kept getting uglier and uglier.
Wilson scores on his backhand (and from behind the net). pic.twitter.com/71BOXjO10f— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 21, 2017
I was barely able to keep up with all the scoring updates. My fingers couldn’t type fast enough. Yikes, Ottawa.
Anderson, once again, took a seat on the bench, and Condon set up shop in Ottawa’s goal at the start of the second period. We didn’t see any more flip-flopping for the rest of the contest. Rightfully so.
Unfortunately for the Senators, that game plan didn’t last very long. Cullen, off a pretty feed by Streit after a line change, led the chorus to the same old song and dance with his own strike right in front of Condon to grow the lead to 5-0. That was Rowney’s third, consecutive assist of the game. He had only four in his first 38 games (regular season plus playoffs). That’s outstanding. Ottawa looked completely helpless.
About halfway into the second, Bonino got nailed for a high sticking call, sending Ottawa on a much-needed power play. Pittsburgh had no trouble killing it, and gained even strength back pretty easily. With a minute left to play, the Senators traded a PP for a PK with a penalty of their own on Tommy Wingels for roughing. A few impactful scoring opportunities carried the Penguins through the rest of the period.
Pittsburgh began the final frame with time still left on the roughing penalty to Wingels. Just like the two previous periods, the Pens lit up the scoreboard again, this time being on the power play off of Phil Kessel’s stick. Crosby picked up the primary helper by giving a gorgeous between-the-legs pass across the Condon’s crease. Pittsburgh went up half a dozen to zero with loads of time left in the game.
Great feed by Crosby to set up Kessel on the power play. 6-0 Pens pic.twitter.com/v04yQ4iudJ— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 21, 2017
Rust took a bad slashing penalty at 14:35 after Ben Harpur put him down on the ice with a clean hit. Ottawa went on another power play looking to generate any life.
Erik Karlsson was notably benched for the last remaining minutes of the game. Regardless of if it was due to another injury apart from his foot fracture or just that they wanted him to rest, it was a smart move by Boucher; you don’t need your best player taking unnecessary minutes in a blow out.
Touchdown, Penguins. On another power play chance, Daley rocketed a shot from the top of the point that met the back of the net thanks to a great screen by Wilson on Condon. Pittsburgh went up 7-0 at the 11:11 mark.
A few typically perfect saves by Murray closed out the game. What a time to be a Pittsburgh fan.
- I must say, the Penguins, as a team, looked fast again and played phenomenally. There’s just no knocking their dominance right now.
Pens Points (so far)→— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 21, 2017
- The third and fourth lines have been machines that keep churning out points. I can’t stress enough how important the play of the bottom two lines with Rowney and Archibald (!), the ones that have seen the most changes due to injuries, is to a team limping their way through the playoffs.
- The trap on the 1-3-1 the Senators lived on in the first half of the series has been completely shut down by bruising defenseman on the blue lines and utilizing a dump and chase strategy. Expect Pittsburgh to keep doing this until the oil runs out.
- The Pens finally found some constant success on the power play with all three units scoring today. That’s a total game-changer in games that carry this much weight.
- Mike Sullivan is a genius and no one should ever question his decision making on line pairings or starting goalies.
Pittsburgh now has a one-game lead heading into Game 6 after giving an absolute whipping to a battered Senators team. A 3-2 advantage bodes well with two games remaining in the ECF series with home ice (if needed) to close it all out. Should be a fun handful of days to come.