James Neal had a hat trick to lead the Penguins as they finished off the lifeless Ottawa Senators, 6-2, Friday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh to take the best-of-seven series, 4-1.
Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Brenden Morrow also scored, and Tomas Vokoun made 29 saves as top-seeded Pittsburgh advanced to face either the Bruins or Rangers.
Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris scored for Ottawa. Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots, but the Senators simply couldn’t keep the Penguins from their first conference finals since 2009, when they won the Stanley Cup.
Morrow scored his second goal of the playoffs 6:25 into the first period while scoring the kind of goal the Penguins expected out of him when they acquired the 34-year-old from Dallas just before the trade deadline.
Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke got to a loose puck along the halfboards and zipped a cross-ice pass to defenseman Mark Eaton. Morrow skated to the net and Eaton waited for Morrow to get in front of the crease before throwing a puck toward the net that deflected off Morrow’s skate and past Anderson.
Neal scored for the third time in two games when he poked in a rebound on the power play to put Pittsburgh up, 2-0, 7:38 into the second period. Letang followed with a wrist shot over Anderson’s glove to make it 3-0.
Michalek pulled the Senators to 3-1 with 3:48 left in the second but Malkin scored just before the break to restore the three-goal lead.
A pair of sizzling wrist shots in the third period gave Neal his first career playoff hat trick and sent the Penguins roaring into hockey’s final four.
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Jonathan Quick made 24 saves in his seventh career playoff shutout, and the Los Angeles Kings moved to the brink of their second straight trip to the Western Conference finals with a 3-0 victory Thursday night over the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center.
Anze Kopitar and Slava Voynov scored, and Jeff Carter added an empty-net goal as the Kings claimed a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.