Game 4: Neal's hat-trick propels Penguins into third round
PITTSBURGH -- James Neal scored a hat trick as the surging Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in six seasons by closing out the Ottawa Senators 6-2 in Game 5.
Just as Ottawa's franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson predicted following a 7-3 Penguins rout in Game 4, the Senators weren't good enough to rally from a 3-1 deficit for the first time in six attempts in franchise history.
They were good enough to win only once in a series decided by Pittsburgh's offensive execution, a scoring depth that ranges far beyond Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Brenden Morrow, Kris Letang and Malkin each added singles for the Penguins on Friday, while Neal's goals gave him five in the final two games of the series.
The Penguins were aided by the solid goaltending of Tomas Vokoun, who made 29 saves and doesn't appear willing to give back his job to former Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury any time soon.
Pittsburgh, which led the conference during the regular season, will play either the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals. Boston leads 3-1 in a series that resumes Saturday night.
For the Senators, who generated only goals by Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris, it was yet another disappointing conclusion to a season. The Senators have failed to advance past the conference semifinals since reaching the Stanley Cup final in 2007.
Simon Despres Kris Letang
Patrick Wiercioch Erik Karlsson
Key Injuries: F Jason Spezza - back (out indefinitely); F Dave Dziurzynski - concussion (on injured reserve); F Mike Hoffman - collarbone (out indefinitely).