Senators look to Leclaire to help keep season alive

The Sports Network

4/22/2010 12:14:03 PM

(Sports Network) - The Ottawa Senators, who will try to stave off playoff elimination tonight when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Mellon Arena, will turn to goaltender Pascal Leclaire.

Leclaire made 20 saves in Game 4, after taking over from Brian Elliott who allowed four goals on 19 shots.

The fifth-seeded Senators won the opener of this best-of-seven series, but since then the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins have rattled off three straight victories to take a commanding lead.

Pittsburgh, which was 25-12-4 at Mellon Arena in the regular season, can punch its ticket to the next round with a home victory tonight.Since 1991, the Penguins are 10-4 when they have an opportunity to close out a series on home ice.

Pittsburgh, the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, won a wild Game 4 matchup in Ottawa on Tuesday, downing the Senators by a 7-4 count. The Penguins scored five times during an eight-goal second period, which proved to be the second-highest scoring period all-time in NHL postseason history.

Sidney Crosby continued his torrid start to the 2010 playoffs with two goals and two assists in Tuesday's win. Crosby now has 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in the series to lead the league in playoff scoring and became only the second player in NHL history to notch at least two points in each of his team's first four games to a playoff series (Paul Coffey, 1989). It was Crosby's first four-point playoff game since Game 2 versus Ottawa in the 2008 quarterfinals.

"I feel like I'm creating things, that's what I want to do. I'm just trying to compete every night and I've been fortunate to have the puck go in. We're going to try and keep this going," Crosby said.

Chris Kunitz had a goal and two assists, while Maxime Talbot registered a short-handed score and an assist. Evgeni Malkin recorded his fourth goal of the series for the Pens.

Matt Cooke and Selke Trophy finalist Jordan Staal also scored for Pittsburgh. Sergei Gonchar collected three assists and Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 26 saves.

Pittsburgh, which beat Detroit in seven games last spring to win the Cup, is trying to become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles since the Red Wings pulled off the repeat in 1997 and '98.

For the Senators, Matt Cullen came up with a goal and two assists in Tuesday's loss, but it wasn't nearly to prop up Ottawa's defense, which allowed 11 goals at Scotiabank Place in Games 3 and 4.

"We have to refocus, regroup," said Senators coach Cory Clouston. "Things started to unravel at times, especially after the second goal and a couple of calls seemed to rattle us as well. We didn't make good on their turnovers, and they made good on our turnovers. That's what good teams do, they capitalize on your mistakes."

Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza each added a goal and an assist for the Senators, who missed the playoffs last spring and were bounced out in the first round by Pittsburgh two years ago.

On the injury front, Pittsburgh defenseman Jordan Leopold has missed the last two games with a head injury and is doubtful for tonight. Forward Tyler Kennedy is questionable with a lower-body injury and could be replaced in the lineup by Ruslan Fedotenko, who was a healthy scratch in the last three games.

Meanwhile, the Senators continue to play without key contributors in forwards Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek and defensemen Filip Kuba. Kovalev and Michalek are out for the season, while Kuba is not likely due back in the playoffs either after undergoing back surgery in March.

The Senators and Penguins split four games during an up-and-down season series. Pittsburgh outscored the Senators, 12-3, in its two victories while Ottawa had a combined 10-3 edge in goals in its wins.

These clubs never met in the playoffs prior to 2007, but this marks the third time in four seasons that the Pens and Sens are facing off in the postseason. Ottawa ousted the Penguins in five games during the opening round of the playoffs in 2007, but Pittsburgh exacted revenge with a sweep in the conference quarterfinals the following spring.