For playing a second game in as many nights (with travel involved) the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't show it, coming out a house of fire early against the Ottawa Senators.
Kris Letang continued his excellent season and got Pittsburgh on the board first, just a minute into the game. After Brandon Sutter won a faceoff and Beau Bennett chipped the puck to Letang, he circled the net and scored a wrap-around that somehow eluded Robin Lehner and ended up in the net and the Pens were up just like that.
They'd extend the lead to 2 about halfway through the first when Rob Scuderi made a nice chip of the puck into space that Sidney Crosby raced too. On the left side of the ice, Crosby chose to unleash a slapper that blew by Lehner for a 2-0 edge.
Nothing much happened early in the second period. Through about 11 minutes, shots were only 3-2 Sens, until Bobby Ryan raced by Robert Bortuzzo and Letang raced back and clearly took out Ryan. The refs wasted no time in awarding Ryan a penalty shot, and it would be hard to argue the call. Thomas Greiss stood tall and didn't bite on Ryan's move, stopping him there to keep the Pens up by 2, and denying Ottawa any life.
Then, just a few minutes later the Penguins would really take advantage when Blake Comeau fed Evgeni Malkin who fired a high shot into the net from a good distance out to make it 3-0 Pens going into the 3rd period.
It seemed the Pens were coasting to an easy win. But the tide would turn in the 3rd in a big way, first when Mika Zibinajed scored a power play goal through the 5-hole of Greiss 5 minutes into the period. About 4 minutes later Mike Hoffman ticketed a high shot for his 18th goal of the season after Maxim Lapierre lost a defensive zone draw to quickly make it 3-2.
The game had tightened but Crosby scored his second goal of the game driving to the net and collecting a Chris Kunitz rebound and Crosby punched home a puck from the doorstep. 4-2 Pens with 5:07 left, all looked good, right?
Later in the shift Kunitz and Chris Neil got tangled up in a scuffle that devolved into Erik Condra and David Perron wrestling too. Bad news for Kunitz to get a 10 minute conduct with Neil, Kunitz didn't seem to do a lot wrong except stand up for himself after Neil hit him into the boards.
Ottawa would feed off it though, next shift out Kyle Turris found a puck before Rob Scuderi could and fed Mark Stone in front, Stone pushing off Scuderi to get room. Immediately on the next shift Turris burst through the zone past Paul Martin and beat Greiss 5-hole to tie the game at 4, just like that sending the game to overtime.
After a fruitless OT, Greiss stopped Ryan (again) and Perron put a nifty shot by Lehner. Greiss denied Turris. Crosby failed to score but Greiss won the game by stopping the last shot he saw.
Whew. Thank goodness that's done.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Greiss could have got a quiet night through 40 minutes but then things fell apart in the 3rd period, including the game tying goal that he should have had. He's been having to play the second end of back-to-backs a lot lately, which is never easy, especially getting over the mumps and missing some time recently. Still, that's a part of the job. At least he was able to recover enough to be perfect 3-for-3 in the shootout (and 4-4 if you include Ryan's penalty shot) to earn the Pens 2 points in the standings.
- Letang was a beast; his usual team high of 28:17 minutes played, a goal, an assist, 3 shots on goal and seemingly everywhere all over the ice. At the risk of sounding repetitive, just another sublime performance for #58.
- Steve Downie was a scratch tonight for the game. Johnston said it wasn't because of a late game penalty he took last night and there were reports he was a little under the weather.
- Crosby lost the only opening faceoff the Pens got on the PP (which, as we said was important and worth watching) and overall had a tough night in the circle winning just 8 of 23 for 35%. And, even worse, Crosby took a retaliation, unnecessary cross-check to end the power play. The Sens didn't score on it, but still.
- That said, 2 goals and 5 shots from Sid, it's difficult to be too critical of his overall performance.
- Pens PP is now 0 for 13 in the last 6 games. Now that everyone's healthy they need to start scoring again. But, again with limited opportunities tonight (only 1 chance) it's difficult to get in a groove. That's not a complaint, as the game was fairly clean throughout, just an observation.
- For as good as Scuderi looked early, he was shaky late. Martin too got beaten by Turris on the game-tying goal. The Pens need better out of their most veteran defensemen.
- Weird to see a game against the Senators and not have Chris Phillips quietly frustrating the Pens all night long. Phillips, 36, was the #1 overall pick by Ottawa way back in 1996 and has been around since, but is out now for an unknown amount of time with a back injury.
- For more on the Ottawa side of things and to see their thoughts about the game, check out our friends at Silver Seven Sens.
It wasn't pretty, but at the end of the night, it's 2 points in the standings none-the-less. And on a night where NYI won and as of press time NYR is up 2-1 in their game (and Washington won last night), it was important for the current place in the standings to take care of business, even if tired and on the road against a rested opponent.
In that regard, mission accomplished. A few days off before a Sunday matinee in Chi-town.