PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan calls it “getting to our game.”
It means he wants his team to attack opponents with speed, aggression and a dash of responsibility.
Physically translated, it looks like the 60 minutes the defending Stanley Cup champions put together 7-0 demolition of the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final Sunday.
Dominant from the opening faceoff to the final whistle, the Penguins moved within one game of a return trip to the Cup final by overwhelming the Senators with wave after wave of pressure, the kind that became the club’s trademark during its sprint to a fourth championship last spring.
Seven players scored and 11 finished with at least one point to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 on Tuesday in Ottawa. Seemingly on the ropes after getting pummeled 5-1 in Game 3, the Penguins have outscored the Senators 10-2 over the last six periods to gain control.
“When we play the type of game we play tonight it allows us to dictate the terms and play the style and the identity of this Penguins team,” Sullivan said.
One well aware that despite how easy it looked during its most lopsided playoff victory in five years, much work remains to be done.
“They have a good ability to respond, so we’re going to be challenged here in Game 6,” said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who scored for the third straight and became the 22nd player in NHL history to reach 100 career playoff assists when he sent a slick backhand no-look pass to Phil Kessel early in the third period. “We know that and we’ve got to be at our best.”
The Penguins might already be there. The power play went 3 for 3. The penalty kill turned the Senators away four times and extended Ottawa’s power play drought to 0 for 29. Matt Murray stopped 21 shots for his first playoff shutout in Pittsburgh’s most complete performance of the postseason.
“I think that was a big part of our success last year was that we had all four lines going and chipping in offensively,” forward Matt Cullen said. “But more than that, spending time in the offensive zone and grinding and playing some good hockey and I think the last couple games, especially, that’s been key.”
The Senators quieted the Penguins early in the series, holding them to three goals through three games by playing disciplined hockey. It collapsed in the first period on Sunday, as turnover after turnover kept giving Pittsburgh the kind of chances that makes it such a difficult out this time of year.
The Penguins chased Ottawa’s Craig Anderson by beating him four times in the first period, the last a “why not” flip from behind the goal line by fourth-line forward Scott Wilson that banked in off the goalie.
Replacement Mike Condon didn’t fare much better. When Cullen beat him 1:54 into the second to make it 5-0, the competitive portion of the afternoon over. As if to raise the white flag, Ottawa coach Guy Boucher held defenseman Erik Karlsson, forward Derick Brassard and defenseman Cody Ceci out of the final 20 minutes to help them get rested up for Game 6.
Karlsson, who is playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel, said he will “absolutely” be ready for Game 6. The rest of the Senators insist they’ll be ready too. They became the third team this postseason to lose by at least seven goals. The other two — Edmonton in the first round against San Jose and Anaheim in the second round against the Oilers — came back to win the next game and eventually the series.
“Just like a plumber wakes up one day, is having a great day, the other day he’s not having a good day,” Boucher said. “Just one of those bad days.”
Notes: Bryan Rust had a goal and an assist in his return from a concussion that sidelined him for Games 3 and 4. … Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley also scored for Pittsburgh. … The margin of victory was the largest in a conference final since Detroit beat Colorado 7-0 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. … Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin played in his 141st postseason game, surpassing Jaromir Jagr for the most in franchise history. … The Penguins scratched D Justin Schultz (upper body) and F Patric Hornqvist (upper body). F Conor Sheary was a healthy scratch. … Carter Rowney had three assists for Pittsburgh. … Boucher said Anderson will start Game 6. … Pittsburgh F Nick Bonino had two assists. His truck broke down on the way to the rink. Kessel picked him up by the side of the road and brought him to the arena.