In back-to-back games against each Conference’s cellar dweller, the Penguins proved they still belong in the penthouse. Lacking the services of two of the game’s most gifted offensive players and several other quality pros because of injury, the Pens, on the strength of tonight’s 5-1 win in Ottawa, have now won four of their last five and remain within striking distance of the East’s No. 1 seed.
Against the lowly Senators, after a ho-hum first period that did feature a spectacular waist-high re-direct goal from Tyler Kennedy, the Pens put away their opponent with a decisive second period. In that stanza, Pittsburgh scored three goals while outshooting the Sens 14-3. Jordan Staal, Ben Lovejoy, and Matt Cooke gave the visitors a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes and made it clear that the league’s worst home team would disappoint their fans once again.
Zbynek Michalek closed the scoring with his tally in a loose third period that yielded 13 shots to Ottawa – four more than they managed in the first two periods combined. However, Brent Johnson, who raised his career record to 8-1-1 against the Senators, was more than up to the task by continually bursting from his crease and thwarting all challengers.
Staal and Chris Kunitz, who amassed three assists, were joined by the top defensive pairing of Michalek and Paul Martin with a +3 rating. Kris Letang continued his Norris-worthy season by skating a game-high 24:50, finishing +2, and stealing a game-best three takeaways.
Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson, a free agent that the Sens hope to lock up long term, struggled against a team he has enjoyed success against during his career. He finished with 36 saves in a very active night.
Pittsburgh will enjoy a well-deserved rest, waiting until Sunday for their next contest. Who knows, maybe this group of inspired Penguins will get to fire a few pucks with their Captain who returned to the ice this week.