Penguins fall in Ottawa, 6-2
Senators forward Chris Neil fights with Penguins forward Eric Goddard during the third period of last night's game in Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Senators forward Chris Neil fights with Penguins forward Eric Goddard during the third period.
Senators forward Jakko Ruutu is checked by Penguins defenseman Martin Skoula during the first period.
Penguins forward Jordan Staal celebrates his goal on Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire during the first period.
Penguins forward Sidney Crosby throws a punch at Senators defenseman Matt Carkner during.
Senators forward Nick Foligno celebrates a goal by teammate Matt Carkner, not shown, on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forward Matt Cooke during the first period of tonight's game at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Senators forward Jonathan Cheechoo, No. 41, celebrates his goal with team captain Daniel Alfredsson as Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson looks back at the net during the third period.
Senators defenseman Chris Phillips checks Penguins forward Sidney Crosby during the second period.
Senators forward Shean Donovan is checked by Penguins defenseman Nathan Guenin as Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) holds the puck during the second period.
Senators forward Nick Foligno is checked by Penguins forward Michael Rupp during the second period.
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OTTAWA -- The early news for the Penguins was pretty good.
Likely could not have been any better.
After all, Sergei Gonchar and Max Talbot were back in the lineup. Mark Eaton was able to play. Then, Jordan Staal gave them a lead 69 seconds after the opening faceoff.
It is what followed -- virtually all of it -- that was so disappointing.
And which made Ottawa's 6-2 victory at Scotiabank Place possible.
After a few strong shifts by the Penguins, the Senators began to control play, consistently getting the puck behind the Penguins' defense and getting control of it. That allowed Ottawa to dictate the pace of play, and prevented the Penguins (14-8) from getting into anything resembling a good rhythm.
"They played a far better and more complete game than we did," said Eaton, who had been listed as questionable for the game because of back spasms.
"They got to their game quicker than we did, and they did to us what we wanted to do to them. They played smart and got pucks deep the first couple of periods, and that kind of set them up for that third period."
And what a third period it was, as the Senators ran off four unanswered goals before Evgeni Malkin got one on a power play at 17:19 to close out the scoring. The Penguins appreciated that Malkin scored -- it was his first in six games and gave them man-advantage goals in back-to-back games -- but it hardly had an impact on the outcome.
That was pretty much settled when Chris Kelly, just eight seconds after leaving the penalty box, beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on a breakaway at 1:29 to put the Senators up, 3-1.
"That was a big one for them, to get a two-goal lead," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "But we still had lots of time left at that point."
Trouble is, the Penguins did not do much with it, except to watch the Senators celebrate goals. Chris Phillips scored at 5:09 and 7:12 to chase Fleury from the game, and Jonathan Cheechoo flipped his own rebound over Brent Johnson, who had replaced Fleury, to make it 6-1 at 13:06.
Not exactly what the Penguins had in mind when they came out of the second intermission down by just one goal and with 81 seconds of power-play time.
"We had every intention of going out ... and setting the tone with our power play," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Then winning a third period on the road."
They did not come close to breaking even, let along winning the third, and Fleury was lifted after allowing five goals on 24 shots.
Bylsma said Fleury was pulled because, "I thought our team needed it at the time."
Gonchar, who had missed the previous 12 games with a broken wrist, logged 25 1/2 minutes of ice time and assumed customary role as quarterback of the power play. Even though the Penguins were just 1 for 5 with the extra man and got that goal long after the outcome was settled, Bylsma said he saw some improvement.
"I think we shot the puck better tonight on our power play," Bylsma said. "We narrowly missed with a couple of other shots."
They did not do much well, though. Certainly not compared to the Senators, who executed their strategy of getting the puck behind the Penguins' defense and pressuring the defensemen very well.
"They did a great job in the first period of playing in our end," Staal said. "They really tired our [defense] out and, toward the end [of the game], it was tough to get out of our end, and they capitalized in the third period."
The Penguins recognized the effectiveness of that approach because it was precisely what they'd hope to do to the Senators.
"You force defensemen to play defense, and that tires them out," Bylsma said. "And that's the kind of result you get."
Not the kind the Penguins were hoping for, certainly.
About the only encouraging thing for them was that neither Gonchar nor Talbot seemed to suffer any physical setbacks and that, at least in the minutes following the game, there was no indication that their lengthy list of injured players will be growing.
Get past that, and just about everything about this game was awfully grim.
"It wasn't pretty," Staal said.
"The score definitely showed that."
First Published November 20, 2009 12:00 am