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Pens know they'll play Senators, but where and when still up in air

| Friday, April 6, 2007

OTTAWA -- The Penguins know they'll be playing the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That much was decided when the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers to clinch the Atlantic Division on Thursday night.

Now all that remains to be worked out is whether the series will start and possibly end at Mellon Arena or Scotiabank Place, site of the Penguins' 3-2 win over the Senators last night to also win the season series, 3-1.

"It's pretty fitting, I think," Sidney Crosby said of it coming down to the 82nd and final game of the season. "It's been like that the whole second half. It's been a battle for a lot of teams. We gave ourselves a chance at least."

In order for the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series to open in Pittsburgh, the Penguins (46-24-11,103 points) will have to beat the New York Rangers on Saturday at home and the Senators (47-25-9, 103 points) will have to lose to the Bruins in Boston.

Otherwise, the series will open in Ottawa, most likely on Wednesday.

Had the Penguins lost last night's game, home ice would have gone to the Senators.

The game came down to the final 10 seconds of regulation when Maxime Talbot scored during 4-on-4 play after he inadvertently blocked Ryan Whitney's shot but got the puck himself and scored to break open a tie game.

It was the only goal for either team scored at even strength.

"(Colby Armstrong) made a great play," Talbot said. "When he's going behind the net like that you know he's going to do something good because he's a warrior, he wants the puck and he's going to do whatever he can to make the right play. He gave the puck to Whitney and I got the puck right in the (groin). It really hurt, but I had a chance to take a shot at it."

Michel Ouellet and Gary Roberts scored the Penguins' other two goals while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves for his 39th win of the season. Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley scored for the Senators.

Although both teams yesterday morning downplayed the importance of sending a message to the other team, it didn't take long for last night's game to get nasty.

A minute after Spezza scored at 7:59 of the first period for a 1-0 Senators lead, Armstrong ran into Senators goalie Ray Emery, who made 24 saves last night.

That got the referee's arm in the air and garnered some attention from two Senators players, at which point Crosby jumped in for some shoving and then Roberts, Whitney and the rest of the players on the ice all came together.

Whitney and Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov got 10-minute misconducts and roughing penalties went to Roberts and Chris Neil, plus the original goaltender interference penalty to Armstrong put the Senators on the power play.

While on the advantage, Ruutu took a run at Spezza behind the net and missed but still got called for charging.

He also irked Spezza in the process.

Ruutu, who'd been skating away, turned to face Spezza, and Spezza elbowed him in the face and ended up with a five-minute elbowing penalty and a two-minute roughing to Ruutu's two-minute charging penalty.

The Penguins scored twice in 55 seconds on the ensuing long power play.

Ouellet scored his 19th of the season to tie it at 14:05 on a wrist shot from the slot and at 15:00 Roberts also scored his 19th of the season on a rebound off defenseman Josef Melichar's shot.

Ruutu wouldn't say what words were exchanged between him and Spezza that led to the elbowing.

"I don't know, ask him," Ruutu said. "I got a penalty for trying to hit a guy and missing, and he retaliated and took an extra one. ... It has a lot to do with discipline. You can't take stupid penalties or it's going to cost you."

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