On a night where some celebrate the "holiday" of Festivus, the Pittsburgh Penguins opened up with the airing of grievances before putting on their on Feats of Strength. On the receiving end was the Ottawa Senators who'll enter their holiday break on the heels of a 8-2 thumping.
Early in the first Pittsburgh struck first when Evgeni Malkin got a tap-in on a beauty of a feed from Sidney Crosby. The Sens would tie it when Anton Volchenkov wired a slapper past Marc-Andre Fleury off of a clean faceoff win by Peter Regin. Ottawa would throw 24 shots on Fleury this period, but that's the only time they'd beat him.
It was in the second period that the floodgates really opened. About a minute in, on the power-play, Bill Guerin walked out of the corner and put his second shot by Pascal Leclaire. About six minutes later Jordan Staal separated player from puck by his own goal, rushed it all the way up the ice and converged with Max Talbot and Chris Kunitz on some nice passing for the 3-1 lead.
Four minutes later, Kunitz deflected a Guerin shot to stretch the lead to 4-1. Then Guerin got a power-play goal to make it 5-1. And right before the period ended, Malkin shrugged off a Volchenkov hit to get himself in position to one-time a pass from Kunitz and just like that it's 6-1 after two periods.
The Senators would relieve Leclaire for Brian Elliott, but there'd be no mercy. Matt Cooke fed a nice pass to Sergei Gonchar early in the third for yet another goal. Then on a 2 on 0 break, Crosby and Malkin batted it back and forth before Geno got his hat-trick, 8-1. The Sens would tack on a Chris Kelly goal late in the game to narrow the gap to it's final score.
- With Russian National czar Vladislav Tretiak in the building, Malkin got 3 goals and Gonchar went 1g, 2a. He couldnt have been more impressed by the performance those two future Olympians put on.
- I couldn't help but snicker at the thought of Herb Brooks having a chuckle looking down to watch his Penguins put on such a show in front of his former Soviet rival from way back when.
- Not to be out-done, Billy G was the man of the hour with 2 goals, 2 assists and 9 shots on goal (with 5 more blocked or missing the net). Linemate Chris Kunitz was in on it too with 1g, 3a. It was a magical night, and every shift it the 2nd period it seemed they were finding paydirt.
- The power-play redeemed itself going 3 for 6 and showed dangerous looks at the net all game long. The movement of players is noticably up from games past, which is paying dividends.
- Marc-Andre Fleury was sublime with 45 saves on a 47 shot effort. He was the early story of the game before all the offensive fireworks when he saw 39 shots in the first two periods. Without Fleury coming up strong early, the course of the game would have been totally altered.
- Sidney Crosby was no slouch himself with 3 picture perfect assists and a winner on 18 of his 25 faceoffs (72%).
- Penalties were an issue all night, with both sides on either end of questionable calls. Entering the game the big story was Ottawa coach Cory Clouston griping about the lack of calls his team has been getting lately. The Sens got their chances (they went 0 for 4 through two periods) but a lot of makeup calls were made.
- Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson left the game early due to a Craig Adams hit. Alfie was stretching out to keep the puck and got sandwiched between Adams and Gonchar. There was no intent to hit the head --evidence by the fact it's said to be a shoulder injury, and Adams did not leave his feet to deliver the hit. As long as hockey is a contact sport, that's just an unfortunate result of the play.
- That didn't stop Milan Michalek from jumping Adams, as is customary for any big hit these days. Michalek only got a 2 minute minor for his transgression (Adams wasn't penalized for the hit or extra-curricular activity) which was fair for the context. But in the broader scope of things, are these jumpings necessary?
- The passes the Penguins pulled off was an exhibition unto itself. Sure you had Malkin to Crosby to Malkin for a goal, but when guys like Cooke, Talbot and Staal are dishing out some sweet sauce, you know it's a great night.
After scoring just 1 goal in their past two games, the Penguin offense was hitting on all cylinders and left for holiday break on quite the nice note. They were able to flex their muscles here a little and show that they are OK. Even though they always were OK, it's nice for confidence sakes for them to express it.
We'll pick things up again with the game on Sunday when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town, but if you have the holiday blues, fear not. A lot of fresh content tomorrow here on Pensburgh including some links and a look at what gifts we'd like to give to each of the Penguins. But aside from that, from all of us here at Pensburgh our best wishes for a happy holiday season to one and all.
And in the spirit of Festivus, the party isn't over until someone pins Mike Rupp. That's the feat of strength, folks!