Senators 4, Penguins 3
PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Ottawa Senators won’t get any medals for this tighter-than-necessary victory over the last-place Pittsburgh Penguins. All that Daniel Alfredsson cared about was they won’t get a loss, either.
Alfredsson and Dany Heatley scored their 35th goals of the season and the Senators built a four-goal lead before holding on to beat the Penguins 4-3 on Wednesday night.
The Senators sent nine players to the Olympics in Turin, Italy, but didn’t show any post-Olympic letdown until Pittsburgh’s John LeClair, Andre Roy and Jani Rita scored in an 8-minute span of the third. Rita, acquired from Edmonton last month, scored his first goal for Pittsburgh and set up another in a 33-second stretch that turned a one-sided game into a tight one.
“It would have been devastating if you lose and we weren’t going to lose it, it didn’t look like,” coach Bryan Murray said. “Our guys regrouped, came back and played pretty well. I don’t think we gave up another scoring chance after they got the third one.”
Until the Penguins’ outburst, they had been outscored 16-4 in three games against Ottawa, including a 5-2 Senators victory Feb. 6 that was rookie goalie Ray Emery’s last in net before Wednesday. Emery started because six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek injured his groin 5 minutes into his first Olympic game with the Czech Republic on Feb. 15 and is out indefinitely.
The Senators are 8-1-1 in their last 10 against Pittsburgh, which has lost eight of 10 despite winning its final two before its 17-day Olympic break. The only difference was, for a change, this game was close.
Ottawa got off to a familiar start less than 7 minutes into the game with Peter Schaefer’s third goal in two games against Pittsburgh, which is 7-17-6 at home this season. Mike Fisher carried the puck unimpeded from his own end before his shot from the right circle rebounded directly to Schaefer in the lower left circle for his 12th.
Alfredsson played for gold medal-winning Sweden in Turin and didn’t arrive back in Ottawa until after the Senators’ flight left Tuesday. But he reached Pittsburgh in plenty of time for the game and scored slightly past the 5-minute mark of the second, off a rebound of Andrej Meszaros’ shot that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury let bounce in front of him on a power play.
“I told myself not to try to think about it too much,” Alfredsson said of playing his ninth game in 15 days on two continents. “I felt not bad actually, not super but pretty good overall. It was a good win especially because we wanted to get off to a good start and this is a team we should beat.”
The Senators did, only not as easily as usual.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to those guys,” Emery said of the Olympians. “They were still playing hard, doing the little things. It had to be tough on them.”
Brian Pothier scored his second of the season later in the second also on a power play, before Alfredsson set up Heatley for his 35th with 3 1/2 minutes left in the period.
The Penguins did nothing against Emery until LeClair put in a rebound of Ryan Malone’s shot on a power play at 6:18 of the third. About 7 minutes later, Roy scored his first goal since Dec. 23, 2003, after defenseman Zdeno Chara couldn’t clear the puck from in front of his own net.
Shortly after the ensuing faceoff, Rita scored his fourth of the season off LeClair’s pass on a two-man rush—forcing the Senators to tighten up to protect what had become a one-goal lead.
“We didn’t give up. We tried to keep coming, and we got a bounce on Roy’s goal,” said Sidney Crosby, held without a goal for the first time in three games.
The trouble was, Mark Recchi said, the Penguins did many of the same things they’ve done wrong all season to get down by four goals—taking bad penalties, allowing odd-man breaks and not protecting the puck in their own zone.
“We haven’t been learning from our mistakes, we haven’t been learning from our losses,” he said.
Emery stopped 27 shots to win for only the second time in five starts, with both victories against Pittsburgh. He has allowed 22 goals in the five starts.
Ottawa is 4-2-1 in its last seven. … The Penguins failed to win three in a row for the first time since March 19-23, 2004. … Ottawa is 16-8-4 on the road. … The Penguins have a worse record under coach Michel Therrien (6-18-5) than they did under predecessor Eddie Olczyk (8-17-6).