Tank you very much!

Sens head coach Bryan Murray directs his players during practice on Monday. SUN MEDIA/Errol McGihon

Sens head coach Bryan Murray directs his players during practice on Monday. SUN MEDIA/Errol McGihon

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

The puck hasn't even been dropped in their first-round playoff series and Senators coach and GM Bryan Murray has branded the Penguins as deceitful cheaters.

Murray is convinced the Penguins intentionally lost their final regular-season game to Philadelphia on Sunday so Pittsburgh could face Ottawa in Round 1 of the post-season and avoid the Flyers.

Asked by Sun Media what his thoughts were when he didn't see Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby in the lineup against the Flyers, Murray was quick and to the point.

"I knew what was going on," Murray said following the Senators' practice yesterday at Scotiabank Place.

Which was?

"You guys all know: They wanted to play Ottawa," Murray continued. "That's fine. It was fairly obvious from the drop of the puck."

While the official word from the Penguins was that Crosby didn't dress for "precautionary" reasons because he has been nursing an injured ankle, the Senators weren't buying it.

Had the Penguins beaten the Flyers, Pittsburgh would have finished No. 1 in the East and played Philadelphia in the first round. But judging by the Penguins' performance, they wanted nothing to do with that matchup.

Sources say the Penguins were also concerned the Flyers might run Crosby because he's hurting.

"You'd to have ask them. I'm not sure," said Murray when pressed on the Penguins did it. "But the physical nature of (Pittsburgh's) game against the Flyers last Wednesday (a 4-2 win for the Pens) was certainly the first thing that I thought of. In a seven-game series, if you don't like the physical way that the Flyers played, you're probably better to go elsewhere."

With the banged-up Senators missing captain Daniel Alfredsson (neck/knee), centre Mike Fisher (knee) and centre Chris Kelly (foot), it shouldn't come as a surprise that Pittsburgh wanted to play Ottawa.

If the Senators believed Murray's accusations or were worried about their injuries, they didn't show it yesterday.

"We've gotten a bad (reputation) here the last little while and everybody ousting us in the first round and not giving us much of a chance," said centre Jason Spezza. "We feel differently about our team. We've still got the manpower here to make a good run and we'll see what happens, I guess."

Most of the Senators didn't watch Pittsburgh's performance against the Flyers, but the Penguins swore they weren't trying to throw anything. They didn't sound very convincing.

"Everybody came into the game approaching it like we wanted to win, to get first place," said Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik. "But, obviously, (Crosby) didn't play and it was more important to get through the game completely healthy.

"It's funny. You never would have thought (Ottawa) a month ago. It's funny how it played out. It should be fun. Maybe it will be more satisfying if we can beat them."

Murray said the Penguins' decision to not show up against the Flyers should help Ottawa in its preparations.

"They think we're a better team to play against at this moment, which is fine. It's a challenge," said Murray. "It doesn't matter what we say or do now. We've got to play our best hockey of the year.

"We've got to find a way to compete in every game and every shift. If we do that, we could make it really interesting. If we don't, then they'll score some goals on us."


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