Mike Condon

Guy Boucher explains why he kept changing goalies in Game 5

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PITTSBURGH — One of the stranger moments in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 7-0 win on Sunday afternoon came late in the first period when Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher took a page out of the Mike Keenan playbook and made multiple goalie changes within five minutes of clock time.

The first change came after Bryan Rust scored to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead with just under four minutes to play in the period, resulting in Boucher removing starter Craig Anderson and replacing him with backup Mike Condon.

After Condon played just a little more than one minute (and made a huge save on Josh Archibald), Boucher decided to go back to Anderson for the remainder of the period.

After the game, Boucher explained his thought process behind the decision. Basically, he was trying to slow down a game that was rapidly getting away from his team without having to use a timeout.

“You want to keep your timeout, you might need it later,” said Boucher. “I thought I was just trying to stall things without taking a timeout then just put him back in.”

Anderson would then give up a fourth goal after returning and was pulled for good at the start of the second period.

Boucher explained that he wanted Anderson to know he has confidence in him, but also did not want to have him play the rest of the game given where it was headed.

“He is my man, I have total confidence in him, and I want him to know that,” said Boucher. “I wanted him to go back out there. But when I saw where the game was going, well, he did not have to live that for the rest of the game.”

Anderson allowed four goals on 14 shots, while Condon allowed three goals on 22 shots.

Penguins send Senators to brink of elimination after dominating Game 5

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The defending champions are one win away from once again reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

Despite numerous injury concerns, particularly on defense, the Pittsburgh Penguins came roaring out of the gate in the first period, scoring four times and chasing Craig Anderson from the Senators’ net, before cruising to a 7-0 victory on home ice.

A great start for Pittsburgh. A disastrous start for Ottawa.

The Penguins now lead the Eastern Conference Final 3-2, and they will have their first chance to eliminate the Senators on Tuesday in Ottawa.

For the second time in as many games, Olli Maatta got the Penguins on the board first. In the span of just over 10 minutes Sunday, the Penguins suddenly opened up a four-goal lead. This one was over quickly.

Sidney Crosby on the power play, Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson continued the onslaught. Anderson allowed four goals on 14 shots before giving way to Mike Condon to begin the second period.

It turned into a blowout from there.

Pittsburgh continued to add to their lead, and dominated puck possession and the shot clock against the listless Senators the rest of the way.

Adding further concern for the Senators will be the condition of captain Erik Karlsson. Having played through a foot injury in these playoffs, Karlsson left Game 5 after an awkward fall during the second period and didn’t return for the third period.

Craig Anderson had a rough first period for the Senators

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins came out flying on Sunday afternoon with what was perhaps their best start of the playoffs.

Thanks to goals from Olli Maatta, Sidney Crosby, Nick Bonino and Scott Wilson they were able to jump out to an early 4-0 lead.

What was amazing about the entire sequence is Senators coach Guy Boucher pulled starting goalie Craig Anderson in favor of backup Mike Condon after the the third goal, only to put Anderson back in after the next stoppage.

Anderson promptly gave up a goal on the first shot he faced after returning.

Crosby’s goal came on a deflection in front of the net on a power play, while Bonino’s goal was the result of a dominant shift from the Penguins that saw them spend nearly two minutes cycling the puck in the offensive zone.

Anderson was replaced by Condon for the start of the second period.

Penguins are heavy favorites, but aren’t taking Senators lightly

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins spent the first two rounds of the playoffs engaging in high-stakes games of rope-a-dope with Columbus and Washington, absorbing some hits, avoiding others and counterpunching brilliantly to get halfway to a second straight Stanley Cup.

A very different challenge awaits in the Eastern Conference final in what amounts to the hockey equivalent of switching from boxing to MMA.

The Ottawa Senators dominated Boston then rallied by the New York Rangers on the legs of seemingly tireless defenseman Erik Karlsson, the inspirational play of goaltender Craig Anderson and a neutral zone trap designed to frustrate and suffocate opponents in equal measure.

“We can’t make any bold plays in (the middle of the ice),” Pittsburgh forward Patric Hornqvist said. “That’s exactly what they want.”

Rather than pound away like the Blue Jackets and Capitals tried to do against the Penguins, Ottawa would rather get in Pittsburgh’s head. The Senators’ defense is designed to force the Penguins and their waves of highly skilled playmakers into making sloppy mistakes.

“They’re pretty stingy,” Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby said. “We’ve got to make good decisions.”

The Senators are well aware they’re not supposed to be here. A year ago they didn’t even make the playoffs. Now they’re in the NHL’s final four for the first time in a decade and aren’t being given much of a chance against the dynamic Cup champions, who played their best game of the postseason in a Game 7 victory over the Capitals.

“No one’s picking us for sure,” Ottawa forward Clarke MacArthur said.

That’s fine by the Senators. They understand they’re playing with house money. Just don’t mistake the joy that spilled onto the ice after beating the Rangers in six games with satisfaction. They’re not simply happy to be here.

“We’re very proud of the work that we’ve done but we’ve got lots left,” Ottawa defenseman Dion Phaneuf said.

Then again, so do the Penguins. The team that looked drained while getting booed on home ice in a Game 6 loss to Washington zoomed past the Capitals in Game 7 , a coolly efficient 2-0 victory that served as a three-period clinic on how to close out a series.

Less than 72 hours later, they’ll begin the next step in becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to repeat with the opener on Saturday night. It’s an opportunity that provides all the adrenaline necessary to overcome any sort of physical or emotional fatigue.

“(In Game 7) we had a level of desperation we missed in a couple games prior, we need to keep that,” Crosby said. “This Game 1 is important, we’ve got to turn the page and start off the right way.”

CAPTAIN KARLSSON

Technically, Karlsson is playing with a pair of hairline fractures in his left heel. It’s hardly slowed him down. Karlsson is averaging nearly 29 minutes of ice time in the playoffs and his 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) lead the team.

“He’s unreal to watch,” Pittsburgh defenseman Justin Schultz said. “The way he skates and the vision he has, it’s really impressive. We’ll try to take it away this series as best we can.”

FLOWER POWER

The Penguins beat Washington for the ninth time in 10 playoff meetings behind the spectacular play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Rendered a well-compensated backup at midseason, the starting job is Fleury’s even with Matt Murray fully recovered from a lower-body injury suffered during warmups before Game 1 of the Columbus series.

“I think Marc deserves the opportunity to play,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s played so well for us and he’s really at the top of his game.”

BAD BLOOD?

The Senators won two of the three regular season meetings, though their 2-1 shootout victory on March 23 was marred by a slash from Crosby on defenseman Marc Methot left the pinky finger on Methot’s left hand mangled, forcing him to miss 10 games. Methot insisted he won’t be looking for payback. There’s too much at stake.

“Right now it’s about Pittsburgh and Ottawa, our team against their team,” Methot said. “We’re going to have to play at the level we’re capable of.”

STANDING TALL

Ottawa had its own unique goaltending situation during the season, with Craig Anderson and Mike Condon splitting duties during a difficult year that saw Anderson take time off to be with his wife Nicholle as she undergoes treatment for throat cancer. Nicholle is in Florida and will undergo a PET scan later this month to gauge her progress. Meanwhile, her husband and his upstart team are drawing strength from her fight.

“We’ve faced so much adversity,” Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion said. “Guys have been so resilient this year. We’re a hockey club but we’re also a family.”

HURTING

The Penguins will likely start the series without defenseman Trevor Daley (lower body). Carl Hagelin is also dealing with a lower-body injury that forced him to sit out Game 7 against Washington. The Senators should have everyone available except defenseman Mark Borowiecki, whose lower-body injury is taking longer than expected to heal.

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Goalie Nods: McElhinney gets the start for Leafs

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With Frederik Andersen unavailable for tonight’s regular season finale for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Curtis McElhinney will get the start against his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He made quite an impact on Saturday night, coming on in relief of Andersen and making a couple of huge saves late in the third period.

As we mentioned this morning this is still a relatively big game for the Maple Leafs. Even though their playoff spot is already clinched, they can still move up in the standings and avoid a first-round matchup with the Washington Capitals. But to do that they have to knock off the Blue Jackets.

McElhinney and the Maple Leafs are going to get a bit of a break on Sunday, not only because Columbus is riding a six-game losing streak, but also because the Blue Jackets have nothing (quite literally) to play for. Their playoff spot has already been locked in place for a week now, and they not only are still without defenseman Zach Werenski, but it also appears that Alex Wennberg, Seth Jones and Scott Hartnell will also be held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons.

The Blue Jackets are preparing for their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sergei Bobrovsky, perhaps the Vezina Trophy front-runner at this point, will also get the night off.

Joonas Korpisalo will start in net for the Blue Jackets.

Elsewhere on Sunday…

— In the final game at Joe Louis Arena it will be Cory Schneider for the New Jersey Devils going up against Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in net for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starter.

Mike Condon gives Craig Anderson a break for the Ottawa Senators in their regular season finale in New York against the Islanders. The Islanders are starting Thomas Greiss.

— It will be Calvin Pickard vs. Jake Allen when the Colorado Avalanche visit the St. Louis Blues.

James Reimer helps the Florida Panthers close out their season when they visit the Washington Capitals. Braden Holtby gets one more tune-up start before the playoffs begin after getting the day off on Saturday.

Eddie Lack will play for the Carolina Hurricanes when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers will start Anthony Stolarz.

— Magnus Hellberg goes for the New York Rangers when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins. No word yet from the Penguins on their starter.

— The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have not announced their starters.

Cam Talbot will get a much-needed break for the Edmonton Oilers as Laurent Brossoit gets the start as they have a chance to maybe win the Pacific Division. Talbot will finish with a league-leading 73 starts, seven more than any other goalie in the NHL. The Vancouver Canucks have not announced their starter.