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Heads Up - Darren Dobber
May 13, 2013
When the Norris Trophy nominees were revealed last week, three first time finalists had made the cut...
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James Neal's hat trick lifts Penguins to Eastern Conference finals
Sat, 25 May 2013 06:18:12 +0000
Philadelphia, PA, United States (4E Sports) - James Neal recorded a hat trick as the Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2009 with a 6-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators Friday at Consol Energy Arena.
It marked the first time Pittsburgh has clinched at home since they eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers at Mellon Arena in its 2009 run to the Stanley Cup trophy.
The Penguins will play the winner of the other Eastern Conference semifinal between the fourth-seeded Boston Bruins and the sixth-seeded New York Rangers. Boston leads that best-of-7 series 3-1 with Game 5 Saturday in Boston.
Brenden Morrow, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin all scored while Tomas Vokoun recorded 29 saves for the Penguins.
"He's been solid," Penguins star Sidney Crosby said of Vokoun. "Hopefully we made it a little bit easier on him, but he definitely made some big saves, especially when we need them."
The Penguins have scored four goals in nine of 11 playoff games. They have 47 goals this postseason, 12 more than the Bruins, 12 more than the Bruins, who sit second on the team goal-scoring list.
"I think we played with a lot of speed pretty consistently," said Crosby. "I don't think we had too many lulls in our game. I think we might have had a couple shifts when they got momentum, but I don't think we allowed them to get too much too often."
Craig Anderson, who carried the Senators to a five-game upset of the second-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the first round, looked human as he stopped just 27 of 33 shots. He allowed 20 goals to the Penguins and was pulled twice.
Morrow scored Pittsburgh's first goal 6:25 into the game, deflecting a Mark Eaton pass past Anderson. The pass hit both his stick and his skate before going in and was reviewed before being ruled a goal.
It was the fourth time this series Pittsburgh scored first and the third time that goal came in less than seven minutes. The Penguins have a league-best 16 first-period goals this postseason.
Neal scored his fourth goal of the series at 7:38 of the second period before Letang made it 3-0 five minutes later.
After Milan Michalek scored his third goal of the series with 3:42 remaining in the period, Malkin made an insurance tally three minutes later to make it a 4-1 game.
Neal added an unassisted goal 11:07 into the third period when he pick-pocketed Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson and beat Anderson in the middle of the third period.
Neal completed the hat trick when his long rush up the ice culminated in a wrister past Anderson with 2:39 remaining.