The thinking was that maybe the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins simply had played too much hockey in the past three years.
They certainly appeared sluggish in the opening period-and-a-half on Saturday, but then rallied to overcome a three-goal deficit and steal a 4-3 overtime win to eliminate the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.
Pittsburgh will rest and await their second round opponent, which will be the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins or Montreal Canadiens.
In their 50th post-season game in the past 22-plus months, Pascal Dupuis scored the series-clinching goal with a high wrist shot from in close, nine minutes and 56 seconds into the extra period to win the opening-round series in six games.
Down 3-1 entering the third period, the Penguins tied the game with a power-play goal from veteran Bill Guerin and a rebound from Matt Cooke for his second of the game with 7:36 remaining in regulation time. They outshot the Senators 18-4 in the third period.
It was a tough night for Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The Stanley Cup playoff leader with five goals and 14 points in five games was caught on the ice for each of the first three Senators goals. He turned the puck over in the Ottawa end on the first goal and was caught standing around on the Senators' strike midway through the second period that put them up 3-0.
Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang and Mark Eaton were also on the ice for all three Ottawa goals.
The Senators enjoyed a strong start that was punctuated with a breakaway goal from Matt Cullen. He sped through the Penguins defence pairing of Eaton and Letang to take Daniel Alfredsson’s pass.
The Senators kept the pressure on the Penguins in the second period and were rewarded with goals from Chris Neil on a rebound and Alfredsson, whose backhand was neatly placed around Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
After Penguins forward Matt Cooke scored his club's first goal 68 seconds after the Alfredsson tally, it appeared Mike Fisher had restored Ottawa’s three-goal lead by sneaking in a rebound late in the second period.
But after a lengthy video review back in the war room in Toronto, it was determined that the net had come off its pegs before the puck crossed the goal-line.
The Senators got a break in the third period when the Penguins had a power-play goal from Alexei Ponikarovsky disallowed. It appeared that Senators defenceman Matt Carkner nailed Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin into Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire, but referee Wes McCauley called off the goal.
But before the penalty to Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov was over, the Penguins made it a one-goal game on Guerin’s goal.