Injury-riddled Penguins stop Senators, win 7th straight
OTTAWA — Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who's launching a forensic investigation about Matt Cooke's injuring Erik Karlsson in February, should be suspicious of the entire Penguins' roster.
Losing doesn't appear to be in the Penguins' DNA.
Playing without a group that could comprise one-third of an NHL All-Star team, the Penguins simply went about their business again — this time in hostile territory — and won their seventh straight in a 3-1 victory against the Senators. They have won 22 of their past 24 games.
“I think it shows that we're hungry and that we always want to win,” said right wing Jarome Iginla, who scored the game-winning goal. “We're without great players, obviously, but we have that confidence.”
Coach Dan Bylsma claimed his 200th career win.
Also, goalie Tomas Vokoun earned the 300th career victory and is 13-4 this season.
“It's a pretty nice milestone,” said Vokoun. “There are a lot of great goaltenders out there. It shows consistency.”
So do the Penguins, who haven't lost a game all season when leading after two periods.
The Penguins (35-10, 70 points) played in Ottawa without eight key contributors. Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), James Neal (concussion), Kris Letang (food poisoning), Paul Martin (broken hand), Marc-Andre Fleury (wife close to giving birth), Beau Bennett (upper-body injury) and Mark Eaton (rest) all missed Monday's game.
Yet the Penguins keep winning. They are 18-5 on the road, including 11-1 against teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Center Dustin Jeffrey was the surprise hero for the Penguins, receiving a spot in the lineup and quickly capitalizing with a goal and an assist in the first period.
“This was my opportunity,” Jeffrey said. “I wanted to do something with it.”
Holding a 2-0 lead in the third period, the Penguins allowed one goal but wouldn't crack. Cooke set up Tyler Kennedy to put the game away.
The game meant essentially nothing in the standings for the Penguins and everything for the Senators, who have one-point lead over the Winnipeg Jets for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Penguins appeared to exit the game unscathed, though defenseman Simon Despres absorbed a nasty hit from Senators forward Chris Neil in the second period. Neil's arm seemed to make contact with Despres' head. He received only a two-minute penalty, and the Penguins, who retaliated, found themselves shorthanded.
Bylsma was dumbfounded by the ruling and thought Neil deserved more of a punishment.
“I don't think you need to see the hit on a replay to see how it happened,” Bylsma said.
Replays aren't required to explain why the Penguins are winning right now.
“I like so many things that we're doing right now,” defenseman Douglas Murray said. “We're just playing the game the right way. We stood up for each other tonight, but we were here to get the win. And that's what we did.”