Looking to keep up the pressure in their push for the Northeast Division lead, the Ottawa Senators can’t afford a letdown against the Eastern Conference’s worst team.
The Senators look for their second straight victory when they host the woeful Pittsburgh Penguins, losers of four in a row.
Ottawa managed to maintain its focus against the offensively challenged Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, winning 3-1 at the RBC Center. Marian Hossa and Daniel Alfredsson each scored in the first period, and Patrick Lalime needed to make only 13 saves as Ottawa won for the 12th time in 18 games.
Hossa also had two assists for the Senators, who took control early against a team that is last in the NHL with 87 goals.
“I like the way we played,” Ottawa coach Jacques Martin said. “I thought we played real strong, and that’s what we need.”
Martin’s second-place team is pushing Toronto for the Northeast lead. The Senators face the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Jan. 31.
While Ottawa has stayed close to Toronto, the Senators need to start stringing victories together again. They haven’t won consecutive contests since a six-game winning streak from Dec. 28-Jan. 8.
Ottawa’s aggressive approach Tuesday night allowed it to bounce back from a 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders in its last outing Monday.
“I think the first period was really the key,” Hossa said. “We didn’t stop pressuring them. … Tonight we protected the lead, so that’s huge for us.”
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has a point in all 10 of Ottawa’s games in 2004, recording five goals and six assists during that span.
The Penguins were overmatched Tuesday night against New Jersey, losing 3-0 at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh wasn’t able to take advantage of a rare start by a Devils goalie other than Martin Brodeur, as rookie Scott Clemmensen stopped 25 shots in his first NHL start.
The Penguins pressured Clemmensen throughout a first period in which they outshot the Devils 12-4, but still lost their sixth straight home game.
“We probably missed the net 15 times and then refused to shoot another dozen times,” Pittsburgh coach Eddie Olczyk said. “We had our chances, but the kid in net played well.”
Jean-Sebastien Aubin made 16 saves for the Pens, whose 30 points are the fewest in the NHL.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 20): Penguins - 30 points, 5th place, 29 PB, Atlantic Division. Senators - 60 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Rico Fata and Ryan Malone, 11 goals; Dick Tarnstrom, 18 assists and 26 points; Kelly Buchberger, 85 PIM. Senators - Hossa, 23 goals, 28 assists and 51 points; Chris Neil, 112 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 20): Penguins - Power play: 13.6 percent (30 for 221), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (163 for 207), 30th. Senators - Power play: 22.5 percent (49 for 218), 2nd. Penalty killing: 86.0 percent (172 for 200), 7th.
SEASON SERIES: Penguins, 1-0-1.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 4-16-2-3 on the road; Senators - 14-7-4-2 at home.