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Sergei Gonchar and Max Talbot return but it's not enough, Senators smoke Pens 6-2

Check out Senators coverage over at Silver Seven

Hooks is out of the Pensburgh lineup for the next three to five days, so I'll be standing in for recap action tonight and Saturday.  Following the Atlanta game, it is believe he'll be listed as day to day.

  • The awesomeness that is Lindon Slewidge rocked the anthems before the puck even dropped.  The guy's got a set of pipes, that's for sure.  Always great to see him during Ottawa games.

    Pittsburgh's first goal was fast and pretty thanks to the long reach from Jordan Staal and a great set up on behalf of Pascal Dupuis from Sergei Gonchar.  Definitely the sort of thing you wanna see your returning defenseman get involved in right off the bat.  And hey, for all the times we've knocked Dupuis, that was one hell of a pass.
  • Unfortunately the highly anticipated return of Max Talbot was stalled by two minutes when he went to the box for tripping.  No worries though, as the PK killed that one off with ease. 
  • With roughly eight minutes to go in the first, Ottawa showed some serious puck control in the Pittsburgh zone.  What felt like too long wound up being just that, as Matt Carkner got an angle on Marc-Andre Fleury and sent one home to tie it at one a piece.  In 2006-07 Carkner played with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pens, so his ability to score against Pittsburgh should stand as no surprise to anyone.  These things always happen.

The second period and depressing third after the jump

  • The Pens started the second period on the power play but quickly found themselves down a man after Bill Guerin took a goalie interference call.  Ottawa made the Pens pay on a Milan Michalek deflection in front of Fleury that put the Sens up 2-1.
  • Gonchar's return to the lineup brought with it high hopes for an immediate boost to the power play.  Sometimes it takes time, as evidenced during the second period when the Pens had two PP chances and failed to make it work.  At times it looked like they were having issues just getting a rush out of their own zone. 
  • The second period closed out with the Pens down 2-1 but with a carry-over PP waiting to open up the third.
  • Despite some nice puck work and a few strong shots from Gonchar and Malkin, the Pens were unable to capitalize on the third period's opening power play.  Unfortunately the d-men pinched too far into the Sens' zone, allowing Ottawa's Chris Kelly to rocket out of the box, charge ahead on Fleury with the puck and score to open up a two-goal lead.
  • The Penguins just looked flat for the first five minutes of the period.  Ottawa jumped on this opportunity to wear down the Pens in their own zone with strong puck control.  Chris Phillips let one go from the boards that slipped right past Fleury to give the Sens four straight unanswered goals.  At this point the Pens would need a drastic change in chemistry and a total shift in momentum to work back from three down with less than 15 minutes to play.
  • They wouldn't get it.  Not tonight.  Chris Phillips picked up his second of the game two minutes later, beating Fleury blocker-side as the wheels continued to come off the bus.  Bylsma pulled Fleury, Brent Johnson went in, and this one turned into a "just try and close the gap" sort of game.
  • If you needed one play to define this loss then look no further than the 6-minuteish mark in the third when Brent Johnson came out of his net to play the puck.  Johnson got tangled up with Gonchar, the puck squirted free as BJ lunged back into the crease and Jonathan Cheechoo launched one top shelf to make it 6-1.  That's how the puck was bouncing for the Penguins.  No breaks tonight.
  • Oh wait.  That power play.  Right right, how did that fare?  Well, they got one.  Yes, they really got one.  Before all was said and done Evgeni Malkin picked up his first goal since coming back from injury to put the Pens' power play at 1-for-5 on the night and the final score at 6-2, massively in favor of Ottawa.
  • Eric Godard and Chris Neil threw down as well in what can only be labeled a heavy weight bout.  Dunman will have more on that for you tomorrow.

What can ya say?  Ottawa played a strong game.  They closed out lanes, prevented shots from getting through and made the Pens chase in their own zone.

Are you worried or concerned, or is this just an example of taking all of these injuries in stride?  If so, then this is going to be a bumpy run.