Senators break out offence in win over Penguins

Senators break out offence in win over Penguins

Take a deep breath. Stand down.
The Ottawa Senators need to keep on winning to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the sense of panic which had taken over the nation’s capital eased a fair bit Saturday following the Senators’ 8-4 romp over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was a slump-buster in so many ways. Players in long scoring droughts broke out, the power play finally clicked and No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson re-discovered his game while coming in cold in relief of starter Ben Bishop, who suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury in the second period.
Who could have predicted this?
The Senators (38-28-10) were reeling, having lost three straight, including an ugly 5-1 defeat to Montreal on Friday, and had won only once in their previous six games. Their lead on Buffalo and Washington for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference had dwindled to a mere two points.
Meanwhile, the Penguins (46-22-6) came into the game in position to take over top spot in the Eastern Conference, undefeated since Feb. 19, having rolled to a record of 13-0-1 in that span.
Yet when Penguins coach Dan Bylsma threw the Senators a bone by opting to rest No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in favour of rookie Brad Thiessen, the Senators took advantage, lighting him up like a Christmas tree.
The Senators remain two points up on Buffalo, which defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-1 Saturday, but the victory pulled the Senators four points ahead of idle Washington.
“It builds confidence, not only offensively, but also the way we played tonight,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who scored two goals — breaking a 12-game slump — and added two assists. “Everybody played really hard, everybody skated and when you do that, everything kind of falls into place.
“Power play, penalty-killing, five-on-five. We had been a little tentative, a little cautious and that’s not really our style, but when we’re really skating and going after it like tonight, we can be pretty good.”
Milan Michalek had a goal and two assists. Jason Spezza, Sergei Gonchar, Colin Greening and Kyle Turris each had a goal and an assist. Chris Phillips also scored. Nick Foligno, elevated to a second line with Turris and Alfredsson, had a strong game, registering two assists.
Matt Cooke scored twice for the Penguins, with Tyler Kennedy and Sidney Crosby also scoring.
Crosby’s third-period goal narrowed the gap to 5-4, but the Senators put the game away with late goals from Spezza, Alfredsson and Greening against Thiessen, playing in his fourth big-league game, but his first away from Pittsburgh.
The bittersweet development for the Senators was the latest development in their ongoing goaltending soap opera. Anderson, forced to come in cold after Bishop went down in the midst of a second-period Penguins power play, looked sharp, allowing only one goal on 20 shots. Anderson gave up two goals on the first four shots he faced in Friday’s loss to Montreal, his first game in more than four weeks following his kitchen accident.
“Obviously not a whole lot of time to think about it,” said Anderson. “You just get thrown in there and you take the mind out of it and just read and react and the guys did a great job of really keeping things to the outside and allowing me to see the puck.”
There was no immediate word on the severity of Bishop’s injury, but Anderson will start Monday when the Senators play in Winnipeg.
For the Penguins, it was a rare night of ugly statistics. NHL leading scorer Evgeni Malkin was held without a point and checked in with a minus-four in the plus/minus department.
“You never want to lose, but you don’t want to get away with mistakes like the ones we made tonight,” said Crosby. “It gives you a false sense of security when you get away with stuff like that. We need to make sure we are keeping good habits here.”

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