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Ailing Penguins cruise past Senators

The SportsXchange

OTTAWA -- Minus two of the world's best offensive players, the Pittsburgh Penguins just keep rolling along.

The Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 Monday, their seventh straight victory, by taking good care of their own end of the ice.

First-period goals by Dustin Jeffrey and Jarome Iginla were more than enough in front of 20,276 anxious fans at Scotiabank Place.

Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun made 34 saves for his 300th career win, while Ottawa's Craig Anderson stopped 21 shots in his second consecutive defeat.

The loss left the Senators (23-16-6) in eighth place with a one-point cushion on the Winnipeg Jets in the battle for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The first-place Penguins (35-10-0) have nothing left to play for other than the slim hope of catching the Chicago Blackhawks for top spot in the overall standings.

"We're definitely getting great goaltending, that's a big part of it," Iginla said when asked how the Penguins continue to enjoy success with a long injury list that includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "The guys are playing with a lot of confidence and trying to approach each game prepared to win. We're missing some huge, key players, but nobody's talked about it or made any excuses. We go into the game expecting to play hard and find a way. It's been fun doing that."

Rookie defenseman Patrick Wiercioch ended Vokoun's shutout bid with a power-play goal 12:42 from the final buzzer, but Tyler Kennedy restored the two-goal lead when he converted a Matt Cooke setup with 2:34 remaining.

"This was a hard-fought game," Vokoun said. "It's nice to win and get the 300th win, then travel home happy. That's why you play the game."

The goals by Jeffrey and Iginla came 4:13 apart, both set up by Brenden Morrow, as the Senators appeared distracted by Matt Cooke, whose skate blade sliced the Achilles tendon of Ottawa star Erik Karlsson the last time the teams met.

As the third-lowest-scoring team in the conference, the Senators were clearly deflated by Pittsburgh's fast start.

"We played to their game tonight, and that's what they wanted," Senators defenseman Marc Methot said. "They're short-manned, offensively especially, and we played their game tonight. That was the unfortunate part."

Senators coach Paul MacLean continually juggled his lines in search of an answer, but to no avail.

"They were better than we were from start to finish," MacLean said. "They were harder at both nets, and they executed better than we did. We went backwards too many times.

"We just need more from the whole team, not a whole bunch more, we just need a little bit more, and it has to be from everybody."

The Senators will pay close attention to the Tuesday game between the Jets and Capitals, in Washington, before visiting the Caps themselves Thursday.

"We know the magnitude of these games," Methot said. "Whether we're gripping our sticks too tight ... I don't know what it is. It just seems like we couldn't get any flow going in the game tonight."

NOTES: Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma earned his 200th career win, making him the fastest coach to reach the mark in NHL history. He is 200-91-25 in six seasons. ... Already without Crosby, Malkin and scoring winger James Neal, the Penguins made late scratches of top defenseman Kris Letang, who was ill, and No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who stayed home for the impending arrival of his first child. ... Also out of the Pittsburgh lineup were defenseman Paul Martin and forwards Beau Bennett and Joe Vitale. ... The Penguins did dress mammoth tough guy Steve MacIntyre for the first time this season, presumably expecting the Senators would be looking to settle the score with Cooke. Senators winger Chris Neil challenged Cooke to fight in the first period, but his invitation was declined. ... The Senators made scratches of their big enforcer, Matt Kassian, as well as defensemen Mike Lundin and Andre Benoit, as well as forwards Peter Regin and Jim O'Brien. ... Earlier in the day, the Ottawa chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association made Benoit, a 29-year old playing his first full NHL season, the team's Masterton Trophy nominee. The award honors a player for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.
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