Erik Karlsson had a different perspective after his Ottawa Senators lost Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final 7-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
Better a blowout then a nail-biting loss, he said.
“It’s wrong to say, but I’d rather lose like this than in overtime or anything like that,” said Karlsson, the Senators leading post-season scorer who didn’t play the third period. “We didn’t play the way that we needed to be in this game. They certainly did. We know that it’s unacceptable and we have to move on.”
The thrashing gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead in the series while leaving the Senators on the brink of elimination.
The Penguins, who won the Stanley Cup last season, can clinch a return trip to the final as soon as Tuesday, when Ottawa hosts Game 6.
‘It was just that kind of night’
“It was just that kind of night,” said Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, who got pulled twice in the game and finished with 10 saves on 14 shots.
“They were going. They were going good. They got the bounces. They got the good plays. They made some good shots. Top to bottom, it just wasn’t good enough for the guys in the white shirts tonight.”
Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray picked up his second career post-season shutout, making 25 saves.
Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust and Phil Kessel each had a goal and an assist, and Carter Rowney and Evgeni Malkin each added three assists for Pittsburgh, which scored four times in the first period and became the first team to win two straight games in the series.
It got so bad for the Senators that three players who left with what were apparently nagging ailments — Karlsson, centre Derrick Brassard and defenceman Cody Ceci — were told not to bother returning for the third period.
“We decided to shorten the bench a bit and come back [fresher] for the next one,” Karlsson said.
Coach Guy Boucher confirmed it was a strategy and that all three could have returned to the game.
Boucher made a different sort of bench move in the first period after Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead on goals from Olli Maatta, Crosby and Rust in the first 16:04. The Senators coach pulled Anderson for backup Mike Condon, but 1:28 later, he sent Anderson back in.
Stalled the game
“I told him I just need to stall the game a little bit and I’ll put you back in,” Boucher said.
Anderson, who was playing on his 36th birthday, gave up one more before the first intermission, on Scott Wilson’s sharp-angle shot at 18:17 for a 4-0 Pittsburgh lead.
“I think we’ve done a lot of throwing pucks at the net,” Crosby said of Pittsburgh’s breakout offence. “If anything, maybe we were a little better at competing in front of their net and finding ways to get those rebounds, or second and third opportunities and some traffic. That’s the kind of stuff this time of year that’s so important. Tonight, I thought everybody was really good with that.”
Condon was in net for the start of the second, and he was greeted by Matt Cullen’s tip-in of a pass from Mark Streit at 1:54 for a 5-0 Penguins lead.
Kessel had a tap-in from Crosby at the left post for a power-play goal and a 6-0 lead 50 second into the third.
Daley scored Pittsburgh’s third power-play goal at 8:40 of the third for a 7-0 lead.
The seven goals are one more than the Penguins totalled through the first four games of the series.
“It’s done and over with now,” Senators defenceman Dion Phaneuf said. “It was not pretty in any aspect for our team. You could say it’s humbling to get beat like that. They were harder everywhere. They played much better, without stating the obvious.
“It’s done now. Move on to Game 6.”