NHL: The Pittsburgh Penguins are one series win away from a Stanley Cup trip
Last Updated: 25/05/13 9:29am
Kris Letang celebrates after making it 3-0 to Pittsburgh
James Neal was the star of the show as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 6-2 to reach the NHL Eastern Conference finals.
Neal scored a hat-trick and added an assist for the hosts, who won the series 4-1 and will next face either the New York Rangers or the Boston Bruins for the right to play in the Stanley Cup finals.
Tomas Vokoun, who has been the starting goalie for the Penguins since taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury prior to game five of their first-round series, stopped 29 shots to improve to 6-1 in this post-season.
The top-seeded Penguins swarmed all over the somewhat listless Senators from the opening face-off and took the lead 6:25 into the first period when Mark Eaton set up Brenden Morrow.
Neal made it 2-0 from a rebound in the second period and Kris Letang followed with a wrist shot over Craig Anderson's glove.
Ottawa's Milan Michalek produced a beautiful finish to make it 3-1 with 3:48 left in the second but Evgeni Malkin scored on a breakaway just before the intermission, restoring Pittsburgh's three-goal advantage.
And Neal produced a pair of powerful wrist shots in the third period to claim his first career play-off hat-trick and put the Penguins through to the conference finals for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Anderson made 27 saves for the Senators and Kyle Turris scored their second goal, in between Neal's pair of third period strikes.
Neal said: "We gave them the respect they deserved and we came out and, I think, we surprised ourselves.
"We played with a lot of speed and got it behind them and got to the net."