Penguins rally and advance in NHL playoffs
OTTAWA — How did that happen?
Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis asked himself that question after his quick release of a rolling puck found a home behind Ottawa Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire on Saturday night.
That goal — Dupuis' first in the Stanley Cup playoffs since May 18, 2008, a span of 27 games — placed the Penguins that first step closer to retaining the Stanley Cup they won last June.
About Dupuis' question, though; he could have asked it about this 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.
After all, rallies from 3-0 deficits in Game 6s on the road don't happen every day in the NHL.
But they have happened in two consecutive springs for the Penguins.
"We drew on our experiences from last year," left wing Matt Cooke said after scoring two goals in the Penguins' second straight rally from a 3-0 deficit on the road to win Game 6 in the first round.
As was the case last year in a 5-3 victory at Philadelphia, which also followed a disheartening home loss in Game 5, the Penguins wrapped this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal, 4-2.
Senators right wing Daniel Alfredsson, who had staked the club he captains a 3-0 lead midway through regulation, did not hide his disappointment after watching Penguins winger Bill Guerin score in between goals from Cooke in the final 29 minutes and 4 seconds before overtime.
"The way we were playing, (losing) is tough," he said after Ottawa failed for the first time in the series to win after taking a multi-goal lead.
"We couldn't really get that next goal, that last goal."
Actually, the Senators had it.
Center Matt Cullen and right wing Chris Neil had them ahead, 2-0, and they were still ahead, 3-1, when Cooke answered Alfredsson's goal at 9:48 of the second period with his marker at 10:56.
With 3:41 remaining before the second intermission, the Senators claimed a 4-1 lead on a goal scored by center Mike Fisher.
However, replays showed his shot slipped over the goal line after the cage had been knocked off its bearings by a crease-crunch between Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and Cullen - and for the fifth time in two games league replay officials at the Toronto offices were called upon to correctly influence a scoring decision.
"We were talking on the bench about needing to stick with what we were doing either way the call went," Penguins forward Mike Rupp said. "Fortunately the call went our way, and it was big in that way."
About seven minutes into the third period Guerin scored on a power play. Cooke tallied again 5:21 later.
The Penguins peppered Leclaire with 18 third-period shots.
The Senators' shot-blocking expertise had frustrated the Penguins until the third period, but over final the 29:56 of this series, Ottawa's players positioned themselves in front of only seven of 22 shots attempted by coach Dan Bylsma's club.
No wonder he joked this six-game series win was "easy."
"It was really hard," center Jordan Staal said.
Still, the Penguins clinched it by winning Game 6 with only a secondary assist from Evgeni Malkin, who in the series combined with fellow superstar center Sidney Crosby to score nine goals and record 22 points.
"You take some good signs away from having guys like Cookie and Duper step up and score some big goals," Crosby said.
Dupuis was the 12th Penguin to score a goal.
He and teammates will get at least one more round — the Penguins' Round 2 opponent is to be determined — to show off their depth.
As Orpik said after a hard-fought series that finished with two straight overtime games and included enough hits (479 combined) to please the Pittsburgh Pirates in one month, "Right now, I think we all just want to get some rest."