The Pittsburgh Penguins had one of those games that everyone always talks about on Wednesday night. The type of game that hockey fans and experts believe they're capable of every night if everything breaks their way. They busted out with six consecutive goals and four in the third period to knock out Craig Anderson and beat the Ottawa Senators 7-3 in Game 4, taking a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
The challenge, then, becomes finding a way to do it again and get the all-important, supposedly difficult fourth win to end the series. It'd be valuable to the Penguins if they could. Boston's overtime loss in Game 4 of the Bruins' series with the New York Rangers now means that the Pens can be the first team to clinch a spot in the conference finals. They would get at least one day extra to prepare for (presumably) Boston. You never know how much days off will affect or benefit a team, but in foresight you usually always want more.
Game 5 takes place in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Ottawa will stick with Craig Anderson, despite suffering the larger portion of the seven goals by the Penguins, being pulled after Sidney Crosby had made it 6-2 on a nasty backhand. Daniel Alfredsson was quoted as saying "We're in a corner here and we're just trying to get back to Ottawa. We've got nothing to lose." This despite him earlier having said that it was "probably not" likely that the Sens would come back in the series. Still, there's always a small chance.
Who takes charge and ends it for Pittsburgh?
Evgeni Malkin turned into a different player in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders, and it turned the Pens into a different team. He had played an unexceptional game for about two and a half periods of Game 6. The Islanders were less than six minutes away from forcing Game 7. Then Malkin took over, finding that extra gear that makes him one of the game's most dangerous players. He set up Paul Martin's game-tying goal and then got an assist on Brooks Orpik's OT winner. A similar performance from someone on Pittsburgh will likely be needed to finish off the Sens.
Is this Daniel Alfredsson's last game?
This won't be answered for a while. There were reports that Alfredsson collected the puck from last night's Game 5, leading many to suspect it was his final game in Ottawa. If so, he's had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, at least in my opinion. It's not a stretch to think that, had he not sat out a season and a half due to lockouts, he might be approaching 500 goals. He played the first decade of his career in the dead-puck era, before exploding for his only 100-point season in 2005-06. He has a Gold Medal and practically put the Senators on his back, scoring 14 goals in the team's 2007 Stanley Cup Final run. He's above a point per game in the 2013 post-season. The game will be lessened a little bit by not having him around.
Can the Senators bottle the start of Game 4?
Ottawa played extremely well to begin on Wednesday night, it might surprise you to find out. Despite taking two early penalties, the Sens had a good first period, and got out of it leading the Penguins 2-1. Craig Anderson made 15 saves in the first before bending and eventually breaking in the second. Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris scored goals that made everybody think the pesky Sens had one more pestering in them. They still can if they come up with three periods like the first one in Game 4.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network, CBC