The emergency number was staring them in the face.
A mere 9:11 into the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins led 4-1.
At that point, Sidney Crosby already had three assists. Evgeni Malkin had one goal and one assist. Craig Anderson’s night was mercifully over, having yielded four goals on eight shots, lifted from the Senators net in favour of back-up Alex Auld.
It was a stunning display in front of a record Consol Center crowd of 18,610.
The game was effectively over.
Heading into the game, Senators centre Jason Spezza had suggested that if teams aren’t up for the challenge of facing the Penguins powerhouse, they risk getting “shellacked.”
And that’s precisely what happened.
An even dozen Penguins picked up points, including goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Crosby, playing his third game since returning from his 10-month concussion-induced absence, delivered on his first shift, quickly erasing an early 1-0 Senators lead. Crosby wound up for a slapshot, but midway through his backswing, he changed course, feeding Chris Kunitz with a pass through the slot. Kunitz found nothing but net to tie the game.
From there, a combination of pinpoint Penguins passing, bad goaltending, bad bounces and bad penalties conspired against the Senators. It got ugly in a hurry, with Tyler Kennedy, Steve Sullivan and Malkin quickly padding the lead. Crosby assisted on both the Sullivan and Malkin goals and now has two goals and five assists in three games since returning. He could have had more. In the second period, he beat Auld, but hit the post.
At that point, Senators coach Paul MacLean went into experimental mode, flipping forwards from line to line, searching for some successful combinations. Daniel Alfredsson spent some time back with Spezza and Milan Michalek. Bobby Butler saw time with several centres. Zenon Konopka even saw some power play time.
The Penguins’ Pascal Dupuis and the Senators’ Jared Cowen exchanged second period goals.
The Senators did show a late push in the second period, but Spezza rifled a shot off the post past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, allowing the Penguins to carry a three-goal lead into the third period.
The Senators went 0-for-4 on the power play. They’ve been shut out on the man advantage in four straight games and are a dismal 2-for-34 in 10 games during November.
Jordan Staal, the Penguins designated third centre behind Crosby and Malkin, made it 6-2 midway through the third period. Erik Condra finished off the scoring late, bringing the Senators to within a field goal.
The Staal goal wasn’t a good one, but Auld did stop 29 of 31 shots in relief of Anderson. He could get the start Sunday when the Senators play host to the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place.
Believe it or not, the Senators actually got off to a great start.
Kaspars Daugavins opened the scoring a mere 1:19 into the game, jumping on a loose puck in the slot and lifting it past Fleury.
Yet only 27 seconds later, Crosby and Dupuis clicked to start the Penguins rally.
At the 3:25 mark, Tyler Kennedy banked a shot off Anderson from behind the goal line. It was a terrible goal, but it’s in keeping with Kennedy’s magic touch against the Senators. He now has nine goals in 14 career games against Ottawa.
The snowball kept rolling downhill.
On a 5-on-3 power play advantage, Sullivan’s attempted pass deflected off Chris Phillips’ stick, over Anderson’s shoulder into the top of the net. Seconds after another Penguins powerplay expired, Malkin beat Anderson low to the stick side.
Anderson skated to bench. Auld took off his toque and put on his mask. It was the third time Anderson has been pulled this season and marked a quick end to his personal three-game winning streak.
The six goals given up by the Senators were the most they’ve yielded since losing 7-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 18, a night when Anderson came on in relief of Auld.
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Why They Lost: If you blinked, you might have missed the explosion. The Penguins erased an early 1-0 deficit with four goals in a span of 7:26 early in the first period. Bad goaltending, bad bounces, bad penalties – you name it, the Senators suffered it all during the onslaught.
Stud: Sidney Crosby, Penguins. On his first shift of the game, he faked a slapshot and set up Chris Kunitz to tie the game 1-1. Crosby added two more assists in the next seven minutes. He now has two goals and five assists in three games. And just think, he was shut out in one of those games.
Dud: Craig Anderson, Senators. The best that can be said is that coach Paul MacLean took him out of his misery early. Anderson can’t be blamed for all four of the goals, but Tyler Kennedy’s bank shot from behind the goal line, which made it 2-1, should have never gone in. Eight shots. Four goals. Will MacLean start Alex Auld Sunday versus Carolina?
Tyler Who?: Tyler Kennedy is a serviceable NHL player for sure, but he must lick his chops every time he spots Senators colours. Kennedy scored a goal and two assists Friday and now has nine goals and five assists in 14 career games against Ottawa. Against every one else, he averages one goal every 4.5 games and one point every two games.