Senators trip up hobbled Penguins

Senators trip up hobbled Penguins
Matt Puempel. (Julie Oliver/OttawaCitizen)

PITTSBURGH — The Ottawa Senators had a lot to cheer about on Tuesday.
Instead of having to come from behind once again, they took a big lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins, defended it, and left the Steel City with a 5-1 win, their sixth win in their last seven games.
But any sense of euphoria was tempered, at least initially, by the surprise loss of defenceman Erik Karlsson, who was scratched before the game with an upper-body injury, even after participating in the morning and pre-game skates.
After the game, however, coach Paul MacLean said that Karlsson’s injury wasn’t serious. Ottawa can breath a sigh of relief.
“It was just a precaution,” said MacLean. “We were just making sure we did things the right way and we’re expecting that he’ll be fine for the game in New York.
“It was just something that he tweaked during his warmup getting ready for the game. It is something that can be easily handled and it is our expectation that he’ll be ready to play.”
Milan Michalek had two goals for the Senators, while Chris Neil, Bobby Butler, and Jason Spezza had one each. Spezza also had an assist.
Colin Greening had three assists and Nick Foligno had two assists.
Evgeni Malkin scored Pittsburgh’s only goal.
The Senators chased starter Brent Johnson just 1:15 into the second by scoring three goals on eight shots.
The third one was the worst. Spezza faked a slapshot and when Johnson committed, Spezza went around him and reached back to put in a backhander.
Marc-Andre Fleury took over and gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, a skate-assisted goal by Michalek.
The rest of the way, he faced another 22 shots.
Craig Anderson faced 30.
Anderson said the team used Karlsson’s absence as source of inspiration.
“I knew the guys would rally around that and have a big a game,” he said.
“Obviously Karlsson is a big part of our team and big part of our offence. It’s unfortunate we didn’t have him but the guys responded and found a way to put together one of our best games.”
Even without Karlsson to generate offence, the Senators managed to get by in the first period, mainly thanks to Foligno.
He assisted on Neil’s goal at 11:13, a wraparound that Neil got past Johnson on the second try.
Then he slid a deft pass from the left circle across to Butler in the right circle. Johnson couldn’t get back in time and, at 14:03, Butler had an open net and his fifth goal..
After the goals by Spezza and Michalek to open the second period, the Senators seemed to lose attention. That gave the Penguins a chance to mount a counter-offensive and they were successful at 11:14 when Malkin intercepted a clearing pass from Sergei Gonchar and jammed the puck past Anderson at the left post.

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WHY THEY WON: Because they took a 2-0 lead in the first when the Penguins weren’t paying attention and then defended a 4-1 lead before turning it into a 5-1 final.

STUD: Milan Michalek. One of his two goals was assisted by his right skate but his second — his 22nd — was a rip after a lovely pass from Greening. It was doubly pleasing for Michalek since brother Zbynek is a Penguin defenceman.

DUD: Brent Johnson. He should just avoid the Senators. He gave up five goals on 19 shots in a 6-4 loss in Ottawa on Dec. 16, and was yanked after allowing three goals on eight shots on Tuesday.

BIG CROWDS: Tuesday’s game attracted a standing-room only crowd of 18,603, the 230th consecutive sellout for the Penguins. They have attracted 4,010,979 fans since the streak began with a Feb. 14, 2007 game at the Mellon Arena against the Chicago Blackhawks.

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