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The Pittsburgh Penguins, in white, have been in form throughout their play-off series against the Ottawa Senators. Patrick Doyle / AP Photo
The Pittsburgh Penguins, in white, have been in form throughout their play-off series against the Ottawa Senators. Patrick Doyle / AP Photo

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins on brink of Eastern Conference finals

Ottawa Senators beaten 7-3 as the Pens take a 3-1 series lead. Vancouver Canucks sack coach.

The Pittsburgh Penguins came from a goal down to thrash the Ottawa Senators 7-3 on Wednesday and move to the brink of the NHL's Eastern Conference finals.

James Neal and Jarome Iginla each scored twice, and Kris Letang had four assists, as the Penguins took a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven semi-final series.

The Penguins, who finished the regular season as the East's top seed, will have the chance to seal the series in Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Friday.

The seventh-seeded Senators took a 2-1 lead after the first period, goals from Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris sandwiching Neal's first of the night.

The Pens then erupted for six straight goals with Chris Kunitz leveling the score at 2-2 and Iginla putting Pittsburgh in front 3-2 in the second period.

Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby joined Neal and Iginla on the third period scoresheet as the Penguins threatened to run riot at a stunned Scotiabank Place.

Daniel Alfredsson, the Ottawa captain, netted late in the third period. He also assisted on Michalek's shorthanded opener and has reached the 100-point milestone for his postseason career.

Canucks dismiss head coach

The Vancouver Canucks sacked Alain Vigneault, their head coach, along with assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown on Wednesday, in the wake of their first-round play-offs exit.

"We have made the very difficult decision to relieve Alain Vigneault, Rick Bowness and Newell Brown of their coaching duties today," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said. "Alain, Rick and Newell worked tirelessly to lead this team to great on-ice success. I am personally grateful to each of them and their families for their commitment to the Canucks and the city of Vancouver and wish them continued success in future."

Vigneault had been at the helm since June of 2006. He led the Canucks to 30 or more wins in six straight seasons and guiding the club to a club-record 54 wins and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2011.

But Vancouver fell in the first round last season to eventual Stanley Cup winners the Los Angeles Kings, and they were swept in the first round this month by San Jose.

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