Caron is 2-4-1 in seven straight starts since the Penguins loaned Fleury to the junior team earlier this month. Fleury, the No. 1 pick overall in the 2003 draft, got the shutout in Canada’s 3-0 win over host Finland earlier Friday in the opening game for both teams in the world junior championships.
“There’s a lot of pressure on (Caron)—has been since Marc-Andre went to Europe,” said Penguins defenseman Steve McKenna, whose goal early in the second gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead. “A lot of people in this town saw Marc-Andre play today and maybe came to the rink wondering, ‘OK, now what does Pittsburgh have?’ We threw a pretty darned good goaltender in there.”
The Penguins, who were tied with Columbus for the worst record in the NHL, got a 31-save performance from Caron in a 2-1 win over Ottawa on Nov. 22.
“He’s been phenomenal against us,” Senators center Jason Spezza said. “I think if he played all 82 games against us, he’d be the top goalie in the league. You have to give him credit, he’s played great both games against us. He was really good tonight.”
The Penguins were within 5:11 of their second win over Ottawa this season when Chara drove a slap shot from the right point past Caron for his eighth goal.
Pittsburgh, winless in four games (0-2-1-1), registered a franchise-low 11 shots for the second time in four games and third time this season.
Todd White and Spezza scored first-period goals as Ottawa—which fell behind 2-0 just 5:13 in—came back twice to extend its unbeaten streak to a season-high five games (3-0-2).
“We didn’t get off to a good start,” White said. “We weren’t working hard defensively. The start of the game was key. We battled hard but the bottom line is we didn’t do enough to win.”
Tom Kostopoulos scored two goals in the first 5:13 to give the Penguins their first 2-0 lead of the season. After Senators coach Jacques Martin called a timeout, Ottawa regrouped to tie it before the end of the period.
“They came out really strong,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “They had some really good shifts and capitalized on their chances, but the reality is, after the two goals, they had nothing. This is a game we should have had two points.”
If not for Caron’s performance, that surely would have been the case.
“We had a good five minutes, and then Jacques called a timeout and they took it to us,” Penguins coach Ed Olczyk said. “If it wasn’t for our goaltender, we would have got no points at all.”
McKenna scored 2:45 into the second to record his first point of the season and restore Pittsburgh’s lead.
Senators goalie Patrick Lalime fell away from the left post after making the initial stop on McKenna, who put the rebound into the opening for his first goal since Feb. 8, in Boston.
“Every time it happens, it’s exciting,” McKenna said.
McKenna, held without a point in his first 29 games of the season, ended a 56-game goal drought.
Senators center Mike Fisher made his season debut, assisting on Chara’s goal. Fisher, who missed the preseason and had surgery on his injured right elbow on Oct. 31, replaced Radek Bonk, sidelined by the flu.
White put away a rebound at 12:06 to draw Ottawa to 2-1, and Spezza tied it at 2 when he flipped Chara’s rebound over Caron from the slot for a power-playgoal at 19:24.
The Penguins, 4-2-3-2 when scoring first, blew nine of their 10 previous 1-0 leads. Fleury made 20 saves for his first career shutout in a 1-0 win at Chicago on Oct. 30. … Pittsburgh, which was twice held to 11 shots in a game before this season, tied the team record in a season-opening 3-0 loss to Los Angeles on Oct. 10, and again in a 2-1 overtime loss in Carolina on Dec.18. … Chara has scored five power-play goals.