The Senators chances were dealt a blow before the puck dropped as All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson was a last-minute scratch and Matt Carkner was inserted in his spot. James Neal was cleared to play after it was suspected that he would be out for some time with a broken foot, which was a bright spot in a Penguin lineup that would be without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Jordan Staal.
Another surprise was Brent Johnson (and his 8-2-1 career record against Ottawa) playing in place of Marc-Andre Fleury in the Penguins net.
The Penguins had the Senators hemmed into their defensive zone for much of first 5 minutes of the period, but had little to show for it. Ottawa was very “scrambly” and turnover-prone, but they avoided taking a penalty that usually accompanies such play. Then a short Ottawa burst was followed by more defensive-zone play, and this time Brian Lee took the penalty that they had been able to avoid earlier. A power play as the midway point of the period approached was unsuccessful, but Pittsburgh kept the pressure on. However, one quick strike and the Senators jumped out to the lead. Chris Neil forechecked the defenseman behind the net after a broken play, stole the puck and wrapped it around. Johnson made the first save but Neil knocked in his own rebound to give the Senators an unlikely lead. Ottawa scored again when Nick Foligno carried the puck coast to coast and found Bobby Butler for a quick shot to the open side to put the Sens up 2-0. That is how the period ended, with Pittsburgh outshooting Ottawa by only a 9-7 margin.
Jason Spezza opened the third period with a highlight reel goal where stripped the puck from Zybenek Michalek, faked a shot to get Johnson off his feet, and tucked it in the open net from three feet behind the goal line. That was enough for Johnson, as he was replaced by Fleury. An Aaron Asham slashing penalty was quickly taken advantage of as Milan Michalek directed the puck past Fleury with his foot off a Colin Greening misfire, 26 seconds into the power play. It was reviewed, but it was directed, not kicked in, so the goal stood. A bad turnover by Sergei Gonchar in his own end led to Evgeni Malkin getting the Pens on thr board just past the halfway point. Malkin he picked off Gonchar’s clearing attempt and drove the net, putting his own rebound past Anderson. Pittsburgh continued to press, and despite not being able to get any closer, outshot the Senators 13-6 in the period.
The third period was all about whether or not the Senators could play with a lead, and not let up and put the Pens in a spot where they could get back in the game. For the most part they did, except a Chris Phillips giveaway as Neal’s penalty expired that allowed Pittsburgh’s leading goal-scorer to have a breakaway out of the box. As he did all night, Anderson stood up to the task and made the save. Greening picked up his third assist of the night as he worked the puck from behind the net and found a wide open Michalek for his second of the game with just over 7 minutes left, to put the nail in the Penguins coffin. Pittsburgh mounted no further challenges as Ottawa cruised to a 5-1 victory.
Post Game Show
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Senshot’s Three Stars
3. Nick Foligno (OTT)- 2 first period assists to get the Sens going in the right direction.
2. Jason Spezza (OTT) – Highlight reel goal and PP assist to put the game out of reach early in the second, could have had a couple more points with any luck.
1. Craig Anderson (OTT)- His play in the first 10 minutes allowed the Senators to be even when they finally got their feet under them.
Posted when available
WHAT I SAW
The Senators were beaten in almost every category except the one that counted. The Senators were outshot, outhit, lost the faceoff battle and had more giveaways. But in the end the only stat that matters is how many goals you scored, and that is where Ottawa excelled.
Balanced scoring has been the key lately as 12 different players have scored in the last 4 games.
This game was won by Anderson in the first 10 minutes. Pittsburgh was all over the Sens, and the fact that they weathered the storm with no damage allowed his team to find their game and take it over. He then stemmed another surge by the Pens to get back into the game during the second.
Although they won this one without him, the loss of Karlsson for an extended period of time would be devastating to this club, who rely on the young Swede to key the breakout.
It was a near perfect night for Ottawa fans as teams around them or chasing them: Winnipeg, Montreal, Buffalo, and Tampa all lost (or were losing late). Toronto won, but in regulation against the Sabres. The Senators are now 7 points clear of 9th place, and even if teams below them win their games in hand (of which there are many) they can’t knock Ottawa out of a playoff spot based on games in hand alone.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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