The Pittsburgh Penguins came into the game after consecutive, brutal 3-1 losses to the New Jersey Devils and they snapped right back into shape against the Senators.
Sidney Crosby elevated a filthy pass over two sticks for Pascal Dupuis to stuff the first of the game. The Pens enter the second period and history looks to repeat itself when two bizarre goals get by Marc-Andre Fleury. The first was as infuriating as lucky goals get: Fleury pins himself to the right post but the puck finds the five inch gap between post and pad. Freak accident. The second goal came 24 seconds later from a Jim O'Brien wrist shot that clipped Fleury's glove. Unacceptable. That familiar panic crept into our souls, but Fleury managed to cool down and was rock solid the rest of the evening, especially with a save on a point-blank Daniel Alfredsson slap shot to keep the score 2-2.
James Neal continued his torrid goal-scoring pace, finding the net twice. For his first, he picked his corner on the power play. His second came after Deryk Engelland sent the puck from the point and, courtesy of a Matt Cooke screen, Craig Anderson couldn't control the rebound. Easy peasy for Neal. Crosby found an open net halfway through the third after the Pens dominated a power play, maintaining possession for when felt like the entire two minutes.
It was refreshing seeing this side of the Pens, especially after the weekend. However, the headline of this game won't be Neal's two-goal game or the ridiculous conversion rate of the Pens' power play. It will be Cooke's errant skate slashing Erik Karlsson's Achilles. The Senators announced surgery will be required to repair the tear. Our best wishes go out to Karlsson for a quick recovery.
Unfortunately for Cooke, he may want to go into hiding since the world is out to get him. Not surprisingly, Chris Neil went hunting for him in the third which resulting in matching game misconducts for both players. Every hockey fan knows about Cooke's reputation, but there's no indication that Cooke did that intentionally. Mainstream media are supporting this opinion, but we know many fans will want Cooke's head for this.
Ottawa's general manager Brian Murray said:
"It's Matt Cooke. What would I say? Watch the replay."
Yep, here we go.
More notes and thoughts:
- Milan Michalek was scratched just before the game with a lower-body injury. He has six points in his last three games against the Pens. Supposedly, the injury came during warm ups. Big blow for the Sens offensively who already were without Jason Spezza.
- On the Sens' first power play of the game, Cooke took a shot in the chest from a Sergei Gonchar shot from the point. It was heading for his throat before he jumped to change the target. Interesting when you see what happened with him later in the game.
- Crosby has been lapsing into passer mode more and more lately. He's (literally) passing on some golden opportunities, two of them were drop passes to imaginary wingers that became giveaways. Would love to see Crosby more greedy.
- The Sens scored their two goals on two shots. It was almost three goals in three shots in under a minute. That's how close the Pens were to letting the game get completely out of hand.
- Crosby scored his 400th career assist and became the youngest to reach 400 since Jaromir Jagr. Interesting enough, he is now tied for the league lead in assists along with Martin St. Louis. He's also second in the points race, tied with Patrick Kane.
- While we're talking about league leaders, Neal is also second in goals with 10, tied with Patrick Marleau.
- Brandon Sutter was playing in his 300th career game. Here's to hoping he continues the ironman aspect to his game.
- Rough day for Paul Martin in the penalty department. He was on a roll with no minor penalties this season and then ended up with two tripping calls and a hook in the game.
- After the slash, Cooke became the first winger to register a point on Evgeni Malkin and Neal's line. Chris Kunitz has provided helpers twice but on the power play. Could those two be anymore clique-ish or what?
- Hooks posted about Dan Bylsma's decision to put Crosby and Malkin on the point of the power play during the morning skate. Boy, was I glad to see Kris Letang and Martin take those spots instead. Keep those two within 20 feet of the goal where they belong.
- With four goals getting by Anderson, the Pens broke his record of nine straight games allowing three goals or less.
- Pens are now 8-3 when scoring first. The all-important first goal of the game...
A really great win for the Pens, but Karlsson's injury really dampers any good feeling I had about the win. Cooke will now have a target on his back once again.