By Brian Metzer
The Penguins were looking to get back in the win column as they ventured into Scotiabank Place in Ottawa yesterday afternoon. They had just dropped two games in which they admittedly were not mentally prepared and wanted to right the ship as quickly as possible.
There was a lot of talk about the fact that the Penguins might have looked beyond both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets, as they don’t really have what can be called a rivalry with either team. Though they probably don’t consider the Senators to be a rival either, they do have a recent playoff history against the team, having met them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs three times since 2007, which seems to have been enough to get them emotionally invested in the game.
The Penguins scored first, as they have done in each of their games this season, as James Neal lashed a shot past Senators goaltender Craig Anderson. They were able to hold the 1-0 lead until Colin Greening knotted the score at 1-1 at the 13:44 mark of the second period.
That would end the regulation scoring and the two teams needed to go to a shootout to determine the winner. Marc-Andre Fleury started by stoning Milan Michalek on Ottawa’s first attempt and the Penguins shooters converted all three attempts, with Evgeni Malkin’s goal going as the game winner.
Here are a collection of key stats, thoughts and observations from the victory in case you missed it.
- Dan Bylsma gave Eric Tangradi intermittent looks with Malkin and James Neal throughout the evening. He also gave Tanner Glass a chance with the line, but Tyler Kennedy probably got the most work with the unit. There is a vibe that the team might be in the market for a top tier winger, which would allow them to move Chris Kunitz back on to the Malkin/Neal line. As of now, it looks like there will be a revolving door on that line. Kennedy, Malkin and Neal combined for eight shots on goal on the night, with Neal notching the goal.
- Marc-Andre Fleury was sharp in making 31-saves in the victory. It is worth noting the Senators have some serious offense at their disposal in the form of Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson. Fleury looked relaxed and was in perfect position to make the first save throughout the evening. His defense did a nice job of limiting second and third opportunities. They showed that when the goaltender and the defense is in tune, they have a pretty effective recipe for victory.
- Tanner Glass notched more ice time (14:24) than both Eric Tangradi (8:18) and Tyler Kennedy (11:49).
- Brandon Sutter was again strong in the face-off circle. He won 69-percent of his draws (9-of-13) and looks to have shaken the early season jitters he had been showing during the team’s back-to-back losses. He skated 17:08 on the night, launched three shots on goal, blocked a shot and registered a hit.
- Kris Letang has been playing a ton of minutes. He skated 29:10 on the night. This is starting to become an area of concern. Can they continue to right him upwards of 30-minutes per evening? The team is going to have to find a way to get a few minutes out of their 5-6 pairing, or else risk Letang wearing down or getting injured before it is all said and done. Letang picked up an assist, fired four shots on goal, blocked a shot and registered a hit on the night.
- Matt Niskanen left the game during the first period with an undisclosed injury. The situation allowed Ben Lovejoy to play a bit more than he had previously on the season. Lovejoy skated 13:20 on the night. The injury also forced Brooks Orpik to play a bit more than he normally would have. The Pens’ veteran was on the ice for 28:28 and blocked an impressive nine shots in the process.
- The Penguins showed a bit more discipline than they had over the first week of the season in taking just two minor penalties on the night.
- No shock in a game that ended 65-minutes of play tied 1-1, but Craig Anderson and Marc-Andre Fleury were named the number one and two stars of the evening.
- Simon Despres was scratched for the second game in a row.
- The Senators scratched Captain Daniel Alfredsson due to an illness.
Overall the Penguins played a very effective road game that saw them take offensive chances only when they presented themselves. They were discipline and played well defensively. They made smart decisions with the puck and got themselves back in the win column. The Penguins will return home tomorrow evening for a 7:30 faceoff with the New York Islanders.
Stay tuned for more later.