The Pittsburgh Penguins will start their bid for a Stanley Cup three-peat home.
Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel banked in goals off Craig Anderson minutes apart in the second period, Casey DeSmith stopped 34 shots and the Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 4-0 to clinch second place in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
Phil Kessel collected his 34th goal of the season and Patric Hornqvist pushed his career-high to 29 when he beat Anderson late in the third period for the Penguins, who will host Columbus, New Jersey or Philadelphia next week.
Anderson finished with 19 saves but was beaten twice from behind the goal line in the second period as the Senators lost for the ninth time in 11 games.
Crosby was standing just off the right post when fired a shot that smacked off Anderson’s left pad and into the net 1:25 into the second period. Guentzel scored from nearly the same spot just over six minutes later, flicking a rebound off the end boards that hit Anderson’s left leg and skittered in for his 22nd of the season.
That was more than enough for DeSmith, given the start a night after top goaltender Matt Murray played in a draining overtime victory over the Blue Jackets. DeSmith was sharp throughout while picking up his first career shutout, and by the time Kessel took a slick feed from Riley Sheahan and fired it into the open net 6:55 into the third the Penguins could turn their attention to the postseason.
Not so for the Senators.
Ottawa and Pittsburgh met in the Eastern Conference finals 10 months ago, with the Penguins winning on an overtime goal in Game 7 before going on to beat Nashville for their second straight Cup. The Senators hoped it would be a springboard to becoming perennial contenders. Instead they will miss the postseason for the third time in five years.
That hasn’t been the case in Pittsburgh for more than a decade.
The Penguins overcame a sluggish first half of the season to extend their playoff streak to 12 straight years, the longest active streak in the league. Now they’ve turned their attention to capturing a third straight Cup, something no franchise has done since the New York Islanders won four consecutive titles from 1980-83, more than two years before the oldest player on the Penguins — 32-year-old defenseman Matt Hunwick — was born.
Pittsburgh heads to the postseason relatively healthy outside of forward Derick Brassard, who is skating but remains out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. The Penguins also go in with the top power-play in the league and the best home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference after picking up their 30th victory of the season at PPG Paints Arena.
NOTES: Both the Senators and Penguins wore a butterfly decal with the initials “JP” on the back of their helmets to honor an Ottawa-area teen and longtime Senators fan who died this week due to a rare and debilitating skin condition. Jonathan Pitre, 17, was nicknamed “”Butterfly Boy” and developed a close relationship with the team after sharing his battle with epidermolysis bullosa. … Kessel played in all 82 games this season and has played in 692 consecutive games, the third-longest active ironman streak in the league. … Crosby played in every game for the first time in his 13-year career. … The victory was head coach Mike Sullivan’s 200th in the NHL.
Senators: Finish up the season in Boston on Saturday.
Penguins: The first round of the playoffs next week. Pittsburgh has won at least one playoff series in four of the last five seasons.
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