An Old Playoff Foe Returns
It has been a couple years, but a familiar playoff foe of the Penguins returns tonight. The Ottawa Senators, who the Pens have battled in the 1st round of the playoffs in 2007, 2008 and 2010, will come to the Consol Energy Center for the first time in a playoff series tonight.
In 2007, the upstart 5th seed Penguins were making their first trip to the post season in 5 years. With young stars like Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury and Ryan Whitney facing off against an Ottawa team (4th seed) that had made the playoffs for 10 consecutive years, the Pens had a distinct experience disadvantage. That disadvantage showed early, as the Pens seemed unready for the nature and brutality of playoff hockey. After losing game 1 in Ottawa 6-3, the Pens were able regroup and take game 2 by a score of 4-3. However, when the series shifted to Pittsburgh, Ottawa took control and won both games 4-2 and 2-1 respectively. With the series on the line, Ottawa returned home to finish the job, shutting the Pens out 3-0 and winning the series 4 games to 1. Pens fans could take solace in losing to a team that went on to reach the Cup finals, losing to the Ducks 4 games to 1.
The next season, in 2008, the feeling was a bit different. The Pens were the 2nd seed in the conference and Ottawa was the 7th seed. Ottawa had some injuries and the Penguins seemed on a mission to avenge their loss to Ottawa from the season before. The Pens dominated game 1 at Mellon Arena, shutting Ottawa out 4-0. Game 2 was closer, but the Pens won 5-3 and took a 2 game lead to Ottawa. Winning those 2 game by scores of 4-1 and 3-1 respectively, the Pens swept the Sens and avenged their playoff loss from the year before. They then made their march through the post season before ultimately losing to the Red Wings in the Cup Finals 4 games to 2.
Ottawa did not make the playoffs in 2009, but in 2010, the defending Cup Champion Penguins met them again in the 1st round. The 4th seed Pens lost to the 5th seed Sens in game 1 at Mellon arena, 5-4, where newcomers like Erik Karlsson were able to shake off their inexperience and put up points. The Pens were able to rally and take the next 3 games, gaining a commanding 3 game to 1 series lead. Ottawa, however, was not finished. When the series returned to Pittsburgh for game 5, it took 3 overtimes to decide a winner. Matt Carkner’s shot bounced off of Cooke and past Fleury to win the game for Ottawa, 4-3. After winning a game like that, momentum in the series had shifted and the Sens broke out to a commanding 3-0 lead at home in game 6, but the Pens fought back with Cooke scoring 2 goals and helping to force overtime once again. In OT, Pascal Dupuis scored halfway through the period to clinch the series 4 games to 2.
Fast forward to tonight. The Pens come into this 2nd round series having swept the season series with the Sens 3-0. Add this to the well documented drama caused by Cooke incidentally injuring Karlsson and the unhinged reactions of Ottawa’s owner, members of the press and the fans, you have the makings of a war. While this more recent drama may be on the players minds, know that there is a rich recent history in the playoffs between these two teams and that history continues tonight.