Just a few short seasons ago the Penguins and the Senators were one of the NHL’s marquee match-ups. It was Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Sergei Gonchar taking on the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, and Jason Spezza.
My, how times have changed. Gonchar swapped his black-and-gold jersey in favor of Ottawa’s red and black during the summer of 2010. Heatley is long gone. And while Spezza and the venerable Alfredsson still reign in the Canadian capital, the rebuilding Senators no longer present the challenge they once did.
Such was the case Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center. Powered by a three-assist performance from Crosby and goals from six different players, the Penguins spotted Ottawa an early 1-0 lead before storming back to demolish the overmatched Senators 6-3.
“They scored early but we knew there was a lot of time left and we could get back into the game,” Crosby said. “Everyone responded well, and that carried over for the next two periods.”
The visitors got the jump on the Penguins barely a minute into the contest when rookie Kaspars Daugavins pounced on a rebound and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a nifty backhander. However, the Pens wasted little time in stealing the Sens’ thunder. Twenty-seven seconds later Chris Kunitz converted on a crisp cross-ice feed from Crosby for his eighth goal of the season.
With the record crowd roaring its approval, Tyler Kennedy staked the Pens to a 2-1 lead at 3:25 when he banked the puck in off goalie Craig Anderson from a sharp angle. Suddenly, “the Peskies” were off to the races. Four minutes later Steve Sullivan notched his third goal in three games when his shot from below the left circle was deflected in by an Ottawa defender. Resembling a big shark at a feeding frenzy, Malkin capped off the Pens’ blitzkrieg (four goals in 7:25) when he turned in the slot and ripped the puck past Anderson.
Desperate to staunch the bleeding, Senators coach Paul MacLean pulled the beleaguered Anderson in favor of Alex Auld. But the Pens cashed in again early in the second period when Pascal Dupuis scooped up a loose puck and drove it home.
Ottawa finally got a chance to celebrate when Jared Cowan beat Fleury with a long-range blast at 15:46. However, Jordan Staal countered for the Pens midway through the final frame with a terrific individual effort. Working the puck off the right sideboards, the big center drove Cowan back toward his net and scored on a perfectly placed wrist shot.
The Sens’ Erik Condra closed out the scoring with a pretty goal at 16:29 when he stickhandled through the entire Pens team and beat Fleury.
Malkin (a goal and an assist) earned the No. 1 star … Kennedy (a goal and two assists) was voted No. 3 star … The Pens out-shot the Sens 40-27 … Crosby (No. 2 star) scuffled with Nick Foligno early in the third period… A dozen Penguins (including Fleury) picked up points … Arron Asham dropped the gloves with Zenon Konopka at 1:48 of the first period … Dustin Jeffrey, Ben Lovejoy, Steve MacIntyre, Richard Park, Alexandre Picard, and Brian Strait were scratches.
The Penguins (13-6-4) jet to Montreal to challenge the Canadiens (10-10-3) at Bell Centre Saturday night. The Pens beat the Habs 3-1 in Pittsburgh on October 20.
*Be sure to check out Rick’s new book, “100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” at TriumphBooks.com. It features 296 pages of bios, stories, anecdotes and photos from the team’s colorful past in a compelling, easy-to-read style. Whether you’re a die-hard booster from the days of Jean Pronovost or a big fan of Sid and Geno, this book is a must have for any true Penguins fan.
Don’t forget to check out Rick’s first book, “Total Penguins,” at TriumphBooks.com. A complete and comprehensive book on the team’s rich and storied history, it’s filled with season-by-season summaries, player profiles and stats, bios on coaches, general managers and owners, photos from the “Post-Gazette” archives, and much, much more.