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Stanley Cup Semi-Final Round-Up: Pens Vs. Sens

Eastern Conference Finals

Defeating the New York Rangers in a best of six game matchup, the Ottawa Senators are cooking with gas. But they’re going to need more than propane to ignite a victory over the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Having met only three times during the regular season, the Sens and Pens appear to be pretty evenly matched.

During their first matchup in December, Penguins forward Bryan Rust gave a standout performance, scoring his first hat-trick to defeat the Senators by a score of 8-5. Their second matchup came less than a month later, only this time Ottawa would endure. Senators’ forwards Bobby Ryan and Mark Stone, who were instrumental to their conquest over the New York Rangers, each scored a goal to help lead Ottawa to a 4-1 victory over the Penguins.

Their final matchup of the regular season, on March 23rd, really set the tone for this for this upcoming Eastern Conference Playoff series, as the two teams were evenly matched. Midway through the second period, Penguins forward Nick Bonino capitalized on a power play advantage, giving Pittsburgh the early lead. But in the third period, the Senators responded with a goal of their own

Midway through the second period, Nick Bonino of the Penguins saw an opening to put the Pens on the board with a power-play goal. But, in the third, Mike Hoffman responded with one of his own. After five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, the two teams went head-to-head in a shootout. Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan would score, giving Ottawa the ‘W.’

However, none of this was possible without the Penguins starting goaltender, Matt Murray. In his debut season, Murray went 32-10-4, putting up a .923 save percentage. Unfortunately, in April, Murray sustained a lower-body injury during warm-ups, leaving the weight of the post-season resting on the backup goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury’s more than capable shoulders.

Fleury is no stranger to danger… having led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Championship in 2009. Although his performance this season was lackluster, he has been giving it his all in the postseason.

The Penguins were able to defeat the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals in a best of 7 matchups, but not without dressing Murray as a backup.

Pittsburgh’s Head Coach Mike Sullivan told NBCSN, “[Murray’s] just taking the next step. He’s been practicing now for a number of days and he’s ready to take the next step and join the team.”

Although Sullivan believes he is slowly getting ready for a return, Murray has played no games this postseason and it is unclear if he is in any sort of condition to get back out on the ice.

Ottawa, on the other hand, are just heating up. Between the pipes, goalie Craig Anderson has given a venerable performance. Unlike the four-time Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins, this is the first time Ottawa has made it to the conference finals since 2006… which could spell real trouble for the former Stanley Cup Champs.

Game one of the Eastern Conference Finals begins Saturday, May 13, at 7 p.m.

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