The NHL playoff roundup …
OTTAWA ó The Pittsburgh Penguins were on the happy side of the traditional handshake line at the end of this year’s playoff series with the Ottawa Senators.
Evgeni Malkin and Jarko Ruutu scored second-period goals, leading Pittsburgh to a 3-1 win over Ottawa on Wednesday night to complete a four-game sweep of their first-round series.
Sidney Crosby scored into an empty net with 7.5 seconds remaining and had an assist, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 21 saves for the Penguins, who got their first sweep in 16 years and their first playoff series win since 2001.
“It feels great,” Crosby said. “Obviously it was a different situation last year and we definitely went through some learning experiences there, but we responded well here in the first round.”
The young Penguins were knocked out of last year’s playoffs in five games by the Senators. Ottawa went on to make its first Stanley Cup finals appearance in modern franchise history, losing in five to Anaheim.
“They handled us pretty well last year,” Crosby said. “They were physical and they were hard on us and to be able to come back this year and learn from our mistakes and be better for it and get a win here feels good for sure.”
Cory Stillman scored for the Senators, who were swept out of the first round for the third time in their 11 consecutive playoff appearances.
The Penguins also became the first team to advance to the second round. Malkin scored his second goal of the playoffs 1:40 into the second. The 21-year-old Russian opened the scoring during the Penguins’ second power-play opportunity as he flicked his own rebound past Martin Gerber with a one-handed backhand on a setup by Crosby .
Stillman brought the sold-out Scotiabank Place crowd of 19,954 to life midway through the period when he tied it at 1. Stillman pushed a loose puck at the right edge of the crease slowly into the goal at 10:31 for his second goal of the playoffs.
Ruutu restored Pittsburgh’s lead for good at 15:28 with a sensational individual effort after he was sent in on Gerber by Tyler Kennedy.
Rangers 5, Devils 3
NEW YORK ó Marc Staal scored his second straight game-winner. This time he did it into the right net.
The rookie defenseman pushed the New York Rangers within a win of the second round with a good old slap shot. The timing couldn’t have better.
Just three days after a puck clipped his skate and went in for New Jersey’s winning goal in overtime of Game 3, Staal snapped a tie with 3:13 left to give the Rangers a 5-3 victory over the Devils and a 3-1 series lead Wednesday night.
“You couldn’t get much lower than last game. To silence 20,000 people is not a good feeling,” Staal said of New York’s 4-3 home loss in Game 3. “This is unbelievable to get them back on their feet.”
No tricks or funky screens were needed to beat Martin Brodeur and the Devils this time. Staal’s official first NHL playoff goal was the result of simply putting the puck on net.
“I was thinking shoot right away,” Staal said. “I tried to shoot it to the far post and it just went in.”
The 21-year-old Staal bounced back quickly. He had help in the form of text messages from his NHL-playing brothers ó Eric of the Hurricanes, and Jordan of the Penguins.
“They said don’t worry about it,” Staal recalled. “All the guys were understanding about what happened and what kind of goal it was.”