Pens score much-needed victory over Ottawa
OTTAWA — It would be overstatement to suggest the Penguins flat-out needed this 2-1 shootout victory over Ottawa on Sunday at Scotiabank Place.
But probably not by much, to hear them tell it.
Not after losing their previous two to Toronto and Winnipeg, teams that missed the most recent Stanley Cup playoffs.
Not after openly acknowledging that effort and discipline, two eminently controllable variables, were largely to blame.
Not after experiencing first-hand how fragile their fate might be within a 48-game schedule.
“We didn't want to let any of this keep sliding,” Sidney Crosby said afterward. “It wasn't a pretty one, but it's good that we won one of those. Sometimes you have to find a way.”
The way, most assuredly, wasn't easy.
After Matt Niskanen exited with an apparent knee injury in the first period, coach Dan Bylsma and assistant Todd Reirden had to manage a five-man defense. And all of them fared well, notably the top pairing of Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik, which Bylsma called “outstanding.”
Orpik recorded nine blocks, more than an entire team usually registers.
“All those guys got the job done,” Bylsma added.
Ben Lovejoy, one of those defensemen, returned the compliment.
“Dan had seven clips waiting for us at the hotel when we got here,” Lovejoy said, referring to the team's arrival Saturday from Winnipeg. “We were struggling coming out of the defensive zone. Whether we were cheating or not, I think we did a good job of correcting that in this game. I think that's a big reason we kept chances down.”
Niskanen's absence wasn't the only difficulty facing the Penguins. The offense continued to look out of sorts, and turnovers continued to cause trouble.
But James Neal struck for his team-high fourth goal in the first period, and Marc-Andre Fleury matched Craig Anderson save for save through overtime — Fleury made 32, Anderson 33 — to set the stage for a 3-for-3 shootout show by Neal, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who had the slick backhand tuck for the winner.
Fleury had allowed two Ottawa goals in the shootout, a rarity for him, but Malkin made that moot.
And just like that, a record that could have fallen below .500 instead went a game above at 3-2.
Might sound like no big deal to some, but if the Penguins learned anything from this up-then-down start, it's that, as defenseman Kris Letang put it, “You have to play like every play matters.”
“It's early, but games can slip away from you in a hurry with a schedule like this,” Neal said. “So yeah, this was a big game. We kind of let ourselves down with the home opener against Toronto, and that kind of carried over into Winnipeg.”
He paused and raised his eyebrows.
“It was definitely a big game. I'm not downplaying that.”
Neither was Fleury, who looked as delighted as anyone.
“It's really big for us to get this, to get back to playing the way we know how to play,” he said. “For us to give up only one goal, we had a lot of guys making the right decision. It was a good team effort, a good team win.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Penguins not mortgaging future
- Penguins GM Rutherford not counting on Dupuis’ return
- Penguins acquire defensemen Lovejoy, Cole in deadline deals
- Winnik impresses Penguins in first workout
- Rangers up ante in Metropolitan Division with trade acquisitions
- Penguins’ Kunitz makes a dream come true
- Penguins notebook: Perron finds comfort zone in Pittsburgh
- Finding perfect pairing for Ehrhoff key for Penguins
- Under Rutherford, it’s been a sizeable shakeup for Penguins