Saturday, April 24, 2010

Super Duper!

Down and out 3-0 midway through Game 6 on the road with an ever dangerous Game 7 looming in the future...sound familiar to anyone? As a matter of fact, the only thing that was missing was the Max Talbot fight with Dan Carcillo followed by the "shhhh". Yes, the similarities to last year's first round series with Philadelphia are very real but this time the hero was Pascal Dupuis who scored midway through the first (yes, the first) overtime to give the Pens the 4-3 victory and the series victory. This was the icing on the cake to one of the greatest comebacks of the season for the Pens and probably the entire NHL. Before that, though, things did not look so good for the Pens. Matt Cullen scored an early breakaway goal to put Ottawa up 1-0 5 minutes into the first. Mike Rupp would score at the end of the period, but the goal was initially waved off by the refs, who thought goaltender Leclaire made the save. Replay would indicate that the puck clearly did cross the line, but the goal was not awarded to Pittsburgh on the basis that one replay camera was not enough "definitive" proof. Things would go from bad to worse for the Pens, as the Senators would score two more goals from Chris Neil and Daniel Alfredsson to go up 3-0 midway through the second. At this point, many Senators fans were ready to book travel plans to Pittsburgh and even some Pens fans were preparing for a game 7. Many still believed, though, and Matt Cooke quickly gave them a reason to believe even more. Cooke backhanded a rebound past Leclaire a little over a minute after Alfredsson's goal to give the Pens hope and cut the lead to 2. That score would stand until intermission, and put the Senators 1 period away from a game 7. The Senators are considered by some to be "experts" at holding a lead, but what they were not counting on was one of the most inspired and dominating 3rd periods of the entire season by the Pens to get back into it. Billy Guerin would continue the comeback when he ripped a goal top shelf past Leclaire on the powerplay to pull the Pens within one. And just as Matt Cooke gave the Pens some life in the second, he would pull them back to even in the third. Cooke's goal was a result of a great read by Cooke on a Mark Eaton shot and he positioned himself very well in the crease to slam the rebound home. A sprawling save by Marc-Andre Fleury in the closing minutes would set the stage for yet another overtime. (Game 5 went into 3) Most of the first 10 minutes went back and forth until Dupuis wristed a shot past Leclaire 4 seconds before the midpoint. This was followed by the Penguins bench clearing onto the ice to surround and congratulate Dupuis and then the traditional postgame handshake. This wrapped up a series full of controversy, talent, animosity, as well as many other things. (Full recap to come later) For now, the Pens will take a much needed and well deserved rest. (especially important for injured players like Jordan Leopold and Tyler Kennedy) They await their second round opponents now with only Philadelphia and San Jose also already into the second round. With Boston and Washington up 3-2 in their respective series, the likeliest opponent would be the Bruins (with BOS ans WAS win). The Pens could get the Sabres with BUF and WAS win. There are also outside chances of the Pens getting the Canadiens (MON and BOS wins) or the Flyers (MON and BUF wins). There is no scenario, however, of getting the top ranked Capitals in the second round as the Caps would automatically get the Flyers if they win. No matter who their second round opponent will be, one thing that could be certain is that it will take another strong effort from coach Bylsma and the Pens to get past. If they do get past the second round, Dan Bylsma will become the winningest playoff coach in Pens history. (currently has 20, the record is 23) For now, however, it is waiting time for the Pens and it is golfing time for the Sens.

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