NEW YORK – The Pittsburgh Penguins put an end to their series with the Ottawa Senators with a hail of goals. In the two games, the Pens outscored Ottawa 13-5. James Neal’s hat trick led the way Friday night for Pittsburgh.
PITTSBURGH 6, OTTAWA 2; PIT wins 4-1
James Neal (3-1—4) recorded his first career playoff hat trick to lead the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Final for the third time in the last six years. Kris Letang (1-2—3) and Evgeni Malkin (1-1—2) also had multi-point performances, while Tomas Vokoun made 29 saves for the victory.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Penguins clinched a series on home ice for the first time since Dan Bylsma took over as head coach in 2009, also marking the team’s first series-clinching win at CONSOL Energy Center. Their last such victory in Pittsburgh came in Game 5 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Final, when they defeated the Flyers, 6 0, at Mellon Arena. The Penguins now are 1-6 under Bylsma when attempting to close a series on home ice.
Overall, home teams improved to 45-20 (.692) in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a 15-3 record (.833) in the second round. Since the NHL expanded for the 1967-68 season, the highest winning percentage by home teams in the second round of the playoffs is .792, a mark that was set in 1976.
The Penguins have scored a League-leading 47 goals in their first 11 games of the playoffs, an average of 4.27 per game. The last NHL team to average four or more goals during the postseason (minimum, 10 games) was the 1992-93 Penguins, who averaged 4.17 goals in 12 playoff contests.
Highest-Scoring Playoff Teams, Since 1992-93 (min., 10 games)
1. Pittsburgh (2012-13): 11 GP, 47 goals, 4.27 per game
2. Pittsburgh (1992-93): 12 GP, 50 goals, 4.17 per game
3. Los Angeles (1992-93): 24 GP, 93 goals, 3.88 per game
4. Vancouver (1992-93): 12 GP, 46 goals, 3.83 per game
5. Philadelphia (2011-12): 11 GP, 41 goals, 3.73 per game
STEEL CITY SCORING
The Penguins have scored three or more goals in each of their last nine home playoff games (over the last two years), averaging 4.11 goals per game during that span (37 total). The last time Pittsburgh scored three or more goals in nine consecutive home postseason games was between 1992 and 1993, when they did so in 11 consecutive contests. (Elias)
The Penguins also have scored at least one power-play goal in each of their last eight home playoff games, going 11-for-34 (32.4%) with the man advantage during that span. They lead the NHL this postseason with a 28.3% overall power-play conversion rate (13-for-46).
Pittsburgh forward James Neal is only the fourth player in the last 16 years to record a hat trick in a series-clinching victory by his team. The others were by Detroit’s Brett Hull in the 2002 Western Conference Quarterfinals (at Vancouver), Detroit’s Johan Franzen in the 2008 Western Conference Semifinals (at Colorado) and Chicago’s Patrick Kane in the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals (vs. Vancouver). The last time a Penguin did so was in the 1996 Eastern Conference Semifinals, when both Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr scored three goals in the team’s Game 5 win over the Rangers. (Elias)
Neal totaled 5-2—7 in the final two games of the series; he had just 1-2—3 in his first seven appearances this postseason.
ON A ROLL
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang collected 1-2—3 to move past Martin Straka for eighth on Pittsburgh’s all-time playoff scoring list (13-34—47). Letang leads all NHL defensemen with 13 assists and 16 points in 11 games this postseason, including 1-6—7 in his last two contests. His 16 points are a playoff career high, surpassing his previous best of 4-9—13 set in 23 games during Pittsburgh’s run to the 2009 Stanley Cup.
Pittsburgh goaltender Tomas Vokoun has stopped 114-of-120 shots (.950 save percentage) while going 4-0 on home ice this postseason. Overall, he ranks second in the NHL with a .941 save percentage and third with a 1.85 goals-against average in seven playoff appearances. Vokoun has a 16-2 record in his last 18 decisions (regular season and playoffs) dating to March 2.
The Penguins improved to 9-2 in series in which they have held a 3-1 advantage; the Senators fell to 0-6 all-time in series when trailing 3-1 . . . Kris Letang’s goal midway through the second period proved to be the game-winner, his first in the postseason since April 16, 2010 . . . Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin scored on a breakaway, his fourth of the playoffs . . . Ottawa forward Jason Spezza fed a no-look pass to Milan Michalek for the team’s first goal . . . Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Brandon Inge dressed up like Mario Lemieux to show his support of the Penguins . . . Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris was in attendance for Game 5 . . . The National Hockey League announced that its 2013 Awards winners will be revealed during two television specials at the Stanley Cup Final.
SNEAK PEEK AT SATURDAY’S ACTION
All Times Eastern
NY Rangers @ Boston, Game 5, BOS leads 3-1, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN, RDS
Detroit @ Chicago, Game 5, DET leads 3-1, 8:00 p.m., NBC, CBC, RDS