Both the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins entered Sunday night’s contest at Scotiabank Place looking to halt the kind of sloppy puck play that was behind losses in their previous games.
While neither team managed to do that, each picked up points in the standings after a 2-1 shootout victory for Pittsburgh.
James Neal, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin solved Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson in the breakaway contest, while Marc-Andre Fleury managed to stop Milan Michalek before ceding shootout goals to Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris.
In a game that featured a combined 18 turnovers and plenty of scoring chances in close, the netminders stood tall.
Fleury, who was shaky in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, rebounded with 31 saves against Ontario’s other team. Anderson turned aside 33 shots for the Senators, including all five in overtime, but he left the rink disappointed nonetheless.
“I’m glad we got a point, but I let my guys down in the shootout,” he said.
“Our forwards did their job and, like I said, I’ve got to expect more out of myself and at least force one of those guys to miss the net.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean, who was forced to shuffle his lines at the last minute after captain Daniel Alfredsson came down with the flu, acknowledged his players needed to be a little better with the puck at times. But he insisted the game was a big improvement over Friday’s 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay.
“I thought it was a great game — we went up and down the rink … I think we were playing against arguably the best team in the east and, one way or another, I thought we played a good game.”
Alfredsson, meanwhile, is expected back in the lineup Tuesday against Washington.
Spezza said he was pleased with Ottawa’s defensive play, if not the final score.
“Whatever they were getting (Sunday), it was just stuff we were giving them,” he said. “We were doing a good job of neutralizing them, but we were a little bit sloppy with the puck at certain points of the game.”
Down a goal to start the second period, it was Spezza who helped the Senators equalize after one of those 18 turnovers.
The rush started when Malkin sent an errant pass right to Milan Michalek, who immediately turned the puck up the ice to a streaking Spezza. He entered the zone, took a shot, and Colin Greening — who earned a first-line promotion due to the Alfredsson scratch — had an easy tap-in on the rebound for his first goal of the season.
Spezza and Michalek each extended point streaks to five games on the play, which squared things after an up-and-down first period.
The Penguins were a little slow out of the gate, but gradually picked up steam as the opening frame wore on.
Pascal Dupuis really started the ball rolling midway through the period with a close-up slap shot that Anderson managed to smother at the side of the net. Dupuis cursed himself as he circled the net, but he needn’t have worried — the breakthrough was just a minute away.
Malkin set it up with a pass through the Ottawa zone to a waiting Neal, who lasered a one-timer into the same area Dupuis was eyeing. His shot got through, however.
The Senators pushed back the rest of the period, with the best chance coming on an Erik Condra breakaway in the dying seconds. Penguins defenceman Kris Letang was able to race back and interfere with the shot just enough to prevent a goal.