For the second game in a row, Ray Emery was the difference and this time rewarded with a shutout. Already in a 3-1 series hole, the Pens collectively sagged further when they couldn’t solve Emery in the early going. Pittsburgh had two 5 on 3 chances in the first five minutes last night but, thanks to Emery, couldn't do anything with them. From there, the Pens looked like a beaten squad.
Dany Heatley, who had a relatively disappointing series, scored a huge goal on a nice centering pass from Daniel Alfredsson. Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly also scored for the Sens.
While no one could argue that Gary Roberts looked great in the series, the Sens deserve kudos for the moves they did make this season. Free agent signings Dean McAmmond and Joe Corvo were both excellent in this series, as were Mike Comrie and Tom Preissing, acquired in separate trades. John Muckler lucked out on Comrie. He was the plan B when Jason Spezza went down.
Muckler’s first choice was Peter Nedved but Edmonton scooped him up off waivers first. While the Oilers later unloaded Nedved, Comrie thrived with the Sens, who only had to give Phoenix the exiled Alexei Kaigorodov. Sens fans owe Kevin Lowe a beer for helping Muckler dodge a big error on that one.
The ovation during the final two minutes last night was knock-you-down loud. I got a sense it was more than just winning a series. It was the appreciation level that this club finally played a series with a hard edge and came out on top. Had the Sens played with that kind of aggression, sacrifice and goaltending, they’d have gone 4 and 0 against the Blue team instead of the other way around.
As predicted last week, the Sens take the Penguins in five. They’ll likely start the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Thursday, either at home to a New York team or on the road in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The playoff scenarios are as follows, listed in order of likelihood: If the Devils beat the Lightning and Buffalo beats the Islanders, the Sens will get New Jersey in round two. If Tampa wins and Buffalo beats the Islanders, they’ll get the Rangers. If Tampa and the Islanders win, the Sens would get the Islanders.