Afternoon games are always tricky for hockey players. They stick to a routine: morning skate, afternoon naps and team meal, then to the rink for the game. With a 1:00 start time, a player can’t do any of that (besides the meal) which leads to unusual play.
Today it was like that, and it saw the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins each give the other end-to-end rushes and a bunch of stops, but goalies Pascal Leclaire and Marc-Andre Fleury were up to the challenge.
Ottawa’s Jesse Winchester scored the game’s opening goal by beating Fleury after a rebound and some lackluster defense from Ben Lovejoy.
The Pens would strike back in the second period when Evgeni Malkin dropped down to one knee and slammed a puck past Leclaire to make it 1-1 on the power play. Early in the third Alex Goligoski corralled a puck and snap it past Leclaire for the game winner.
Some other thoughts:
-For as much as the Pens power play has been maligned, they scored both goals tonight and provided enough juice to get the team the win. All is not totally well with Pittsburgh’s man advantage, but you’ll take today’s effort any time you can get it.
-The other special teams unit, the penalty kill, is having no such problems. Even without Selke finalist Jordan Staal, the Pens have killed 25 straight penalties and are now third in the entire league in PK efficiency.
-Fleury has now won five straight games and has really hit a groove with his performances. It seems like ages since he was struggling, which is a credit to his focus and confidence. 43 saves on 44 shots for the Flower today.
-Tyler Kennedy loves playing against the Senators. He has seven career goals in now 11 games vs. Ottawa (compared to 35 goals in 197 games against the rest of the league). Today Kennedy registered two assists in the game, to go along with his usual energy out on the ice.
-Ex-Penguin Sergei Gonchar played a team high 23:37 ice-time for Ottawa and Gonch also got three shots on goal with two blocked shots. In his second game back in an Ottawa jersey, Gonchar received a small smattering of boos from the Pittsburgh fans, which left some tweeters to wonder 'Why boo a consumate pro who helped your team win the Stanley Cup?' Well, Gonchar now wears enemy colors, and he wears them of his own choice- signing with Ottawa in the summer as a free agent. Take nothing away from what Gonchar did as a Pittsburgh Penguin, but why not boo him? There are no friends in professional sports when the other guy is wearing the wrong colors.
So the Penguins keep rolling in their winning ways lately, with now five straight. And they won’t get the chance to get in their usual routine for 7:00 PM game, as the Calgary Flames will visit the Consol Energy Center tomorrow on Saturday for another 1:00 PM game.