The struggling Pittsburgh Penguins traveled to Ottawa on Thanksgiving and overcame adversity as they came from behind twice to beat the league leading Senators by a score of 6-5 after an extended shootout. The game, played with a tremendous amount of intensity from both teams, could well signify a turning point for the Penguins who have struggled through the first 1/4 of the season. The Penguins wiped out a 2-goal defecit late in the first period and again in the third to force the overtime and shootout where they beat the league’s winningest goaltender on his own ice. In recent comments, Penguins GM Ray Shero welcomed the early season adversity that the Penguins have been struggling through and noted that it will help build character throughout the organization to include the players, the coach, and the GM. In beating the Senators, the Penguins never gave up and displayed a ton of character. Hopefully this self-injected dose of confidence will begin to pay dividends for the Penguins from this game forth.
In the first period, the Penguins came out and played a physical game with a lot of jump and intensity. However, it was the Senators who struck first on an even strength goal by Jason Spezza, from Luke Richardson and Daniel Alfredsson at 4:56. Then at 9:01, Jarrko Ruutu was sent to the box for “diving” after being punched to the head and falling to the ice. It was the 2nd diving call of the period for Ruutu, and should have been offset by a matching penalty to Ottawa for roughing. Instead, the questionable call was assessed solely to Ruutu and the Senators were given the gift of the man-advantage. At 10:55, they converted on the power-play with a goal by Chris Phillips and assists by Chris Kelly and Antoine Vermette. The goal prompted Coach Therrien to pull Marc-Andre Fleury from the net in favor of goaltender Dany Sabourin. The Penguins continued to battle strong throughout the first and were rewarded on a Senators turnover in the Penguins zone as Evgeni Malkin took the puck on a pass from Petr Sykora, poked it past an Ottawa defenseman and then beat Ottawa tender Martin Gerber on the stick side. The goal extended Malkin’s point streak to 15-consecutive games. Just 18 seconds later, the Penguins drove in another goal off from the stick of Ryan Malone to tie the game at 2-apiece. Sidney Crosby and Colby Armstrong were credited with the assists. The Penguins outshot the Senators 9-6 in the first, and were 0 for 3 on the power play.
In the second, the Penguins got on the board first at 8:00 on a quick slapshot by Tyler Kennedy that surprised and eluded Martin Gerber to put the Penguins up 3-2. The assist went to Jordan Staal who picked the pocket of the Senators in their own zone and dished the puck to Kennedy. The Senators responded by putting up 2-unanswered goals to give them a 4-3 edge at the end of the 2nd. The first came at 14:20 from Jason Spezza, his second of the night, and was assisted by Wayne Redden. The second came at 16:15 on a power play marker from Dany Heatley as Evgeni Malkin sat for a tripping call. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza were credited with the assists. The Senators outshot the Penguins 9-8 in the 2nd and were 1 for 2 on the power play. The Penguins were o for 3 on their man-advantage chances.
In the third, the Penguins gave up the first goal to face their second 2-goal defecit of the game. At 1:04 Christoph Schubert beat Dany Sabourin to give the Senators the 5-3 advantage. Andrej Meszaros and Chris Neil were credited with the assists. The Penguins were able to battle back, however, with 2-quick unanswered to tie the game at 5-5. At 5:56, Ryan Malone scored on the power play with assists by Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang, who picked up his first point this season. Just a little over a minute later, Sergei Gonchar tied the game by stepping up on the play and taking a pass from Colby Armstrong who had falled to his knees behind the net. Ryan Malone was credited with the other assist, his third point (2G, 1A) of the game. Despite being outshot 18-8 throughout the period, Dany Sabourin was able to hold on to the tie and force overtime. The Penguins were held without a shot in the overtime period and Sabourin successfully turned away all 3 shots by the Senators to force the shootout.
In the shootout, Dany Sabourin gave up just 1 goal to Jason Spezza and stopped Antoine Vermettem, Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher, and Dean McAmmond. “He won a shootout for us earlier this year, and even in the third period when Ottawa really started to pour it on a little bit, we got sloppy and he made some big saves for us,” said Ryan Malone.For the Penguins, Erik Christensen scored the Penguins goal to force extra shooters. The goal was waved off by the refereee at first, as it appeared that Gerber had stopped the shot. However, the goal was credited to Christensen when it was revealed by video review that the puck was deflected back into the goal from Gerber’s arm after the initial pad stop. Gerber stopped Sykora, Crosby and Malkin but gave up the goal and the game on the Penguins’ 5th shooter, Jarkko Ruutu. Ruutu made a nifty move to his backhand that got Gerber moving across the goal mouth and enabled him to slide the backhander through the tender’s pads to win the game 6-5.
“We’re resilient,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “I don’t think we played our best third period. We gave up some scoring chances that we don’t usually give up but we found a way to come back in the game. Our power play gave us a goal, finally, in the third and gave us a chance to come back. It’s nice to get a win.” Ryan Malone had an outstanding game scoring 3-points (2G, 1A). “Every time we play these guys it’s pretty exciting,” Malone said. “With the offense they have, their team is pretty much the best in the league right now. It was a great character win for us.” Colby Armstrong (2A) and Sergei Gonchar (1G, 1A) both picked up 2-points. Gonchar leads all league defensemen in scoring with 21 points (6G, 15A).
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The Penguins play host to the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night at 7:30PM.