After the Ottawa Senators beat the New Jersey Devils 3-0 in their previous game to win their 7th straight game, no less than Jacques Lemaire said something along the lines of "those guys are playing at their very best". The Pittsburgh Penguins saw this first hand tonight, as Ottawa extended their franchise best winning streak to eight.
Evgeni Malkin would do his part to reverse the trend, scoring just 1:34 into the game with a tremendous shot that eluded Brian Elliott. However, it'd be the only one the Pens would manage to beat him on. Mike Fisher (aka Mr. Carrie Underwood) would bang in a rebound to tie the game at 1 halfway through the first and Marc-Andre Fleury couldn't handle a sharp angle rebound right in front of Chris Kelly who had an easy open net to bury the trickling rebound.
There'd be no more scoring until the third when Jason Spezza really took the air out of the Pittsburgh balloon with an early goal. Nick Foligno would finish the scoring with an anti-climatic empty net tally to make it 4-1.
- Spezza looked like the most dangerous player on the ice, and his five shots were tied for a game high with Malkin and Mark Eaton of all people.
- Speaking of Eaton, he got absolutely buried in the corner when Chris Neil finished his checked and ended up hitting him in the head. Looked like it could have been a scary situation, but Eaton popped right up and didn't even miss a shift. Neil would not be penalized on the play, and I don't really have a problem with that decision.
- Max Talbot only one shift in the third period, lowest on the team by far. Coach's decision or just a victim of circumstance or maybe injury?
- A very rough night for Martin Skoula. He didn't have the confidence of the coaching staff lately anyways and ended up being on the ice of the first two goals against. Worse, his skating looks really slow and his play in the corner and reading the decisions of his teammates looks quite awful.
- The Penguins power play didn't come through in three chances, all of them in the first 22 minutes of the game. The refs swallowed the whistle altogether, as they didn't call a penalty at all on either team in the last 35 minutes of the game.
- Brian Elliott looked calm and collected throughout the game. He was always in the right position, and Elliott did everything right. The Malkin blast that beat him was on an unstoppably quick release. Everything else, he was up for the challenge.
- Fleury, however, looked very much looked like a nervous guy favoring the glove hand that has that broken ring finger. He wouldn't even extend his glove to cover the puck, instead choosing to go into awkard poses to hold the puck in. Also the puck would hit Fleury, then elude him, often for seconds without him knowing so. Kelly took advantage on his goal, another time it went 5-hole and somehow parallel to the net (and not in) and on and on and on. MAF looked very solid in his first game back, he looked just as unsettled tonight.
- After Fleury looked uncomfortable, at best, perhaps because of his finger injury will this mean the Pens turn to Brent Johnson on Sunday? Maybe, maybe not; but the question at least needs to be asked.
In the end Ottawa was very much the team on the roll, and even though they gave up the first goal, they didn't miss a beat and played an excellent road game. Pittsburgh didn't seem to have much jump tonight, without several key members of their team, which is never an excuse this far into a season even if it's still somewhat of a disappointment.
The Pens have a couple days now to stay at home, get some practice time in, and hopefully get a body or two back before the big Stanley Cup final re-match against Detroit. They'll definitely need a better performance top to bottom, but the champs always rise to the occasion, so we'll have to wait and see how it goes.