Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Home Rule at Last Neal's Hat Trick Eliminates Ottawa; Penguins Clinch First Series Here since 2009 Penguins 6, Senators 2

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Home Rule at Last Neal's Hat Trick Eliminates Ottawa; Penguins Clinch First Series Here since 2009 Penguins 6, Senators 2

Article excerpt

Swell place, Ottawa.

An historic and, in places, picturesque city. A lot of nice people and plenty of powerful ones, too. Great place to spend a little time in the spring.

But the last place the Penguins wanted to go this weekend.

Their play in a 6-2 victory against Ottawa in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series Friday night at Consol Energy Center -- which secured a spot in the Eastern Conference final and removed any need to return to Ontario for a Game 6 -- made that pretty obvious.

"We came out with the desperation to win," said winger James Neal, whose personal contribution came in the form of three goals and an assist.

The Penguins had a pronounced edge in play most of the game, especially when the outcome was still in doubt, to claim a spot in the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2009, when they earned the franchise's third Stanley Cup.

They also won a series on home ice for the first time since ending Philadelphia's season at Mellon Arena in the 2008 conference final.

The outcome of the series had been widely predicted, and Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson suggested it was entirely appropriate, as well.

"They were better than us in each and every game," he said.

The Penguins will face the winner of the Boston-New York Rangers series for the conference title. The Bruins hold a 3-1 lead, and can win the series with a victory at home today.

"At this point, whoever you play, it's going to be a pretty tough series," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "Anyone who gets this far, it's for good reason."

Whichever team they meet in the next round likely will devote a lot of time to scheming ways to contain Neal. After a slow start in this postseason, he got three goals and an assist in Game 5 after putting up two goals and an assist in Game 4.

"The way he shoots the puck and the way he can hold onto it, he can definitely scores in bunches," Crosby said. "He's proven that. He's done it before. That's pretty difficult to do in the playoffs."

The Penguins' next opponent might want to do some detailed video work on goalie Tomas Vokoun, too. He stopped 29 of 31 shots Friday and is 6-1 since replacing Marc-Andre Fleury for Game 5 of the opening round against the New York Islanders. …

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