The Pittsburgh Penguins had an opportunity tonight if in fact they got a little help with a Ranger Loss, to take the division and Conference lead. The combination of the Penguins Defense struggles along with a poor showing by back up goalie Brad Thiessen made for a bad loss by a score of 8-4.
Ottawa came to play tonight as it looked like they new exactly where Thiessen had holes in his game. And Unfortunately for the Pens, it looked like Thiessen had more holes than anyone other than Ottawa new about. Milan Michalek gave the Senators a 1-0 lead with a wrist shot at the 9 minute mark of the 1st period. The Penguins followed that up with a game equalizer just :40 seconds later from Matt Cooke. Four minutes after that, Matt Cooke scored again to take a 2-1 lead as the Penguins looked, at least for the 1st period like the team they had the previous 14 games or so.
Sergei Gonchar tied things up for the Senators just :33 seconds into the second period and that seemed to have flipped the momentum rather quickly. Chris Phillips scored a power play goal, a snap shot passed Thiessen to take the lead 3-2 just seven minutes later. Kyle Turris scored just :35 seconds after that as the Ottawa Senators were able to squeeze another shot passed Thiessen to make it 4-2. The Penguins wasted no time in drawing within 1 goal with a Tyler Kennedy wrist shot to make it 4-3. Both teams exchanged opportunities and Thiessen looked to have settled things down when the Penguins got a power play opportunity. They not only squandered the opportunity, they gave up a crucial Shorty Handed Goal to go down again by 2 goals from a Daniel Alfredsson snap shot.
Sidney Crosby finally was able to score a goal tonight to get that monkey off his back to bring the Penguins to within 1 goal again by a score of 5-4. But less than 2 minutes later Thiessen let a Jason Spezza wrist shot by him to increase the lead to 6-4 and completely take the air out of the Penguin’s Sail. The Senators began to pick Thiessen apart further with goals by Alfredsson and Colin Greening to finish the game off.
This was not the kind of effort I would have expected tonight, and some of it was dictated not only by poor defense including one of the worst games I have seen played by Paul Martin, but also by some bad Goalie play. Thiessen never looked comfortable tonight and that was perfectly clear. This was, as I mentioned in my last post, his first away game in the NHL as a starter. He was also playing a team that is in a battle for the top spot in their division and it was clear he was not prepared for that kind of effort they were putting forth tonight. I was stunned that Bylsma let him stay in as long as he did.
The Pens now have to come home for a game tomorrow facing the New Jersey Devils. You can guarantee that the effort that was put out today will not be duplicated tomorrow.