Both teams in the Ottawa-Penguins first-round playoff series got to sleep in their own beds last night.
It's a pretty safe bet the Senators had the more restful night after flying home following their 2-1 win at Mellon Arena that gave them a commanding, 3-1 lead.
Ottawa had an unlikely hero.
Defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who had one goal in the regular season, eight goals in 151 career NHL games and one in 35 career playoff games, broke a 1-1 tie with a slap shot from the top of the slot at 9:12 of the third period off of a feed from Mike Comrie.
"I don't score so much, so I was happy to score a big goal for this game," Volchenkov said with a thick Russian accent.
Game 5 comes at Scotiabank Place tomorrow night. The Senators would like to send the Penguins home alone rather than have to return Sunday for Game 6.
"We've got to digest this one. But definitely going into the next game we want to bury them," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "We don't want to have to come back here and give them life. When you get a team on the ropes, you want to try and knock them out."
That isn't the reputation Ottawa has carved for itself over the years.
The Senators have been playoff regulars since 1994, but they have not been playoff giants. They've bowed out in the first round five times, the second three times -- including last season -- and in 2003 advanced to the Eastern Conference final, where they lost to New Jersey in seven games.
They insist it is not a postseason past that haunts them.
"I know there's lots of commentary about the history, but this is a very different hockey team than I had last year. Very different," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said. "We play different. We work different. We handle things better. We've talked about it.
"We went through something [a slow start] early in the year. We paid a price, but I think we're past that now. The history lessons are well learned, I hope and think, and we're just going to be calm and play."
One slice of history favors the Senators.
They have held a 3-1 edge in four playoff series and won them all, most recently last season when they took a 2-1 series lead against Tampa Bay, then won the next two.
"Going back to Ottawa being up 3-1 is a lot different than going back 2-2," Comrie said. "We know it's not over. We still have to play hard and realize Pittsburgh's not going to die. But we worked hard to get to 3-1."
Ottawa took it to the Penguins early. The 1-0 lead and 10-6 advantage in shots in the first period did not fully define the Senators' dominance.
Spezza got his second goal and fourth point of the series with a fluky power-play sequence at 3:25.
His centering pass caromed high off Penguins penalty-killer Jordan Staal and bounced past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
"A nice little bounce," Spezza said, with a laugh. "Not the power-play play we worked on, but it's nice when they go in like that."
The Penguins turned the table in a fast-paced, high-octane second period, holding a 13-4 edge in shots -- thanks at least in part to four Penguins power plays -- and tying the game, 1-1, when Staal poked the puck in from a scrum in front of goaltender Ray Emery.
Whether it's a surprise goal from someone like Volchenkov or a few from the top line of Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, Ottawa is looking for a defining blow tomorrow night that could be the start of a new page in its history.
"We're really playing for each other now," Spezza said. "We're playing with a purpose. We're playing the smartest we've probably played in a long time. We don't care if they're pretty or ugly. We just want to win games."
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.