PITTSBURGH -- Offense seemingly came by the eyedropper for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first four games of the Eastern Conference final.
They managed just six goals in those games, including a single goal in three games, and yet they managed to enter Game 5 in a 2-2 series tie with the Ottawa Senators.
Then the dam broke Sunday afternoon as Pittsburgh thrashed Ottawa 7-0 at PPG Paints Arena, pushing the Senators to the brink of elimination.
Pittsburgh leads the series 3-2 and can clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final as soon as Tuesday, when Game 6 is scheduled at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.
"We're a confident group," said Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta, a surprise goal scorer in Game 4 who added another Sunday. "We know we have the potential to do that. Obviously, seven in a game is a lot, but at the same time, we know we have enough skill and we're a really good group, so we can definitely do that in a game."
Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray, making his second start after missing most of the postseason because of injury, picked up his second career postseason shutout, making 25 saves, but he was more impressed with his club's offense.
"We did a really good job," Murray said. "The majority of that was because we had the puck the whole time, so we didn't really have to defend. ... I thought we did a really good job staying on our toes and keeping the puck for the most part. When we didn't have it, we were able to create a turnover."
Sidney Crosby, Trevor Daley, 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 took its first lead in the series and became the first team to win two straight games in the series.
Maatta, Scott Wilson and Matt Cullen also scored for the Penguins.
"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."
It got so bad for the Senators that three players who left with what were apparently nagging ailments -- captain and team leading postseason scorer Erik Karlsson, center Derick Brassard and defenseman 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.
Senators coach Guy Boucher confirmed it was a strategy and that all three could have returned to the game.
Karlsson might not have been around for the finish, but he had a sense of how complete Pittsburgh's domination was.
"It's wrong to say, but I'd rather lose like this than in overtime or anything like that," he said. "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."
Boucher made a different sort of bench move in the first period after Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead on goals from 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.
"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 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 offense. "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 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 seconds into the third.
Daley scored Pittsburgh's third power-play goal at 8:40 of the third for a 7-0 lead.
"It's done and over with now," Senators defenseman 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."
NOTES: Despite some optimism about a possible return, Ottawa LW Alex Burrows (lower-body injury) and D Mark Borowiecki (lower body) did not play. ... Pittsburgh RW Bryan Rust returned from an upper-body injury and replaced LW Conor Sheary, who was a healthy scratch for the first time this postseason. ... RW Patric Hornqvist (upper-body injury), D Justin Schultz (upper-body injury) and RW Tom Kuhnhackl (lower-body injury) remained out for the Penguins, with D Mark Streit replacing D Chad Ruhwedel (concussion), who was hurt in Game 4. ... C Evgeni Malkin played in his 141st career playoff game, moving him past Jaromir Jagr for most in Penguins history. C Sidney Crosby pulled into a tie with Jagr for second by playing in his 140th postseason game. ... Malkin also became the 29th player in NHL history with 150 career playoff points. He also moved ahead of Mario Lemieux into second on Pittsburgh's career postseason assist list with 98.