Penguins rout Senators for second home win


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It took awhile, but the new place is starting to feel like home for the Penguins.

And not just because there isn't much danger of guys ending up outside an emergency exit while trying to find the weight room anymore.

No, the Penguins finally are starting to look comfortable at Consol Energy Center, and their 5-2 victory against Ottawa Monday night is just the latest bit of evidence.

They are beginning to learn the nuances of the rink -- like the hard carom off the boards Sidney Crosby turned into a power-play goal -- and, more important, to look like they expect to succeed there.

And while their timing certainly could have been a bit better -- seven of their next eight will be played on the road -- having a genuine home-ice advantage never is a bad thing.

"We feel comfortable now," winger Pascal Dupuis said. "Guys have their own little routines, their own little things we do before games."

That shows in the things they're doing during games, as the Penguins (4-3) are above .500 for the first time this season and have their first back-to-back victories in their new building.

Of course, it's easier to win at home -- or on the road, or in a neutral site -- when you're winning the special-teams and goaltending battles, and the Penguins did both Monday night.

They went 2 for 4 on the power play, while the Senators were 1 for 4, and Brent Johnson, making his third consecutive start and fourth in the past five games, turned aside 32 of 34 shots.

He put an exclamation point on his performance by knocking the puck away from Senators center Mike Fisher when he broke in alone on a Penguins power play in the middle of the third period.

"[Johnson] played great again," Dupuis said.

His Ottawa counterpart, Brian Elliott, didn't fare nearly as well. He allowed five goals on 22 shots before being replaced by Robin Lehner at 10:32 of the second period.

Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who spent the past five seasons with the Penguins, was the subject of a video tribute on the arena scoreboard and an appreciative ovation from the standing-room crowd of 18,101 during a stoppage in the first period.

He called it "a really special moment for me" and it likely was the highlight of his evening. Gonchar finished with one assist and a plus-minus rating of minus-3 in about 25 1/2 minutes of ice time.

Because the game was the Penguins' third in four nights, getting offensive contributions from across their lineup figured to be important, and that's what happened.

No fewer than 11 players chipped in at least one point and three -- Crosby, Mark Letestu and Evgeni Malkin -- had a goal and an assist, while Mike Comrie picked up two assists after getting just one in his previous five appearances.

Letestu put the Penguins in front with a power-play goal at 8:39 of the first, when he threw a wrist shot over Elliott's glove from above the right hash for his fourth of the season, and Crosby made it 2-0 on another man-advantage at 13:53, as he converted the ricochet of an Alex Goligoski shot that had missed the right post.

"Obviously, we had a strong start," defenseman Kris Letang said.

Malkin made it a three-goal game by lunging to knock a loose puck by Elliott at 17:02 and, after Daniel Alfredsson briefly revived Ottawa with a power-play goal at 5:40 of the second, Dupuis and Letang beat Elliott in a 25-second span to remove all doubt about anything except the Penguins' margin of victory.

Dupuis got his first of the season at 10:07, as his centering pass toward the crease hit the stick of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and went by Elliott and Letang picked up his first on a slap shot from high on the right side of the slot, as the puck struck -- and shattered -- Jarkko Ruutu's blade before sailing into the net at 10:32.

Ottawa defenseman Chris Campoli cut the Penguins' advantage to 5-2 by driving a slap shot past Johnson from the top of the left circle at 4:19 of the third, and his team carried the play for much of the period.

But even though Malkin said, quite accurately, that "we needed to play better in the third period," the Penguins' control of the game never was threatened.

And a home-ice advantage at Consol Energy Center moved a little closer to becoming a reality.

"I think guys are settling in, for sure," Letestu said. "It's a big, beautiful building and the pressure's off to get the first one. Just go out there and play hockey, and see what happens."


Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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