OTTAWA – Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators made a statement heading into the holiday break.
Anderson stopped 27 shots for his second shutout of the season as Ottawa defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-0 on Monday.
“We definitely had one of our better games this year and we played our most consistent game, playing hard-nosed and in their face,” Anderson said. “We know they have a good team and they bring it every night and they do things right 99 per cent of the time so we found a way to win the game and do it with conviction.”
Senators head coach Paul MacLean was pleased with the timing of the emphatic victory.
“It’s the best way we possibly could (head into the break),” said MacLean. “If we were looking for something under the tree that could be a motivator for us and a feel-good thing for us, beating Pittsburgh 5-0 we can head into this three-day break with a positive attitude.”
The game was relatively close after two periods but the Senators dominated the Penguins in the third, outshooting them 15-9 while getting goals from Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris and Cory Conacher.
Zack Smith and Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators (15-17-7) and Anderson earned the 24th shutout of his career.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves for the Penguins (27-22-1), but saw his personal five-game winning streak come to an end.
The win ended a three-game losing streak for the Senators with all three of those losses coming in Ottawa since they beat the St. Louis Blues last Monday, also at the Canadian Tire Centre.
“I thought our response to the game tonight was workman like and our penalty killers did yeomen work and the difference in the game was that we obviously killed off those power plays,” said MacLean after his team survived all seven short-handed situations, while scoring once in three power-play opportunities themselves.
The Penguins had won 12 of their last 13 games in Ottawa, including seven in a row. Pittsburgh had only been shut out once this season as they fell 1-0 at home to the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 21.
The shutout was the first for the Senators since they blanked the Buffalo Sabres 1-0 in their first game of the season.
Defenceman Marc Methot set an early tone that it was going to be a physical night.
With the Penguins breaking towards the Ottawa goal, Methot took Sidney Crosby out with a hard hip check. Crosby wasn’t hurt on the play but his spinning body was catapulted into Pascal Dupuis who went down and hit hard into the end boards.
Dupuis left the game with what was later described as a lower body injury and did not return. Crosby was mostly ineffective the rest of the game and his immediate reaction after the game was not a good one.
“I haven’t seen the replay. I don’t know how low it was. He almost blew my knee out so it was pretty low,” Crosby said.
“I don’t know if it was right above my knee or above my hip, but it was awfully close.”
Methot politely disagreed.
“I have a ton of respect for that player,” said Methot. “I think he’s one of the best players in the world and you have to play him hard and that was our goal.”
The two players had a lengthy discussion before play resumed while Dupuis was attended to behind the net.
“He wasn’t happy about it and I wouldn’t be happy either so I don’t blame him for coming at me a bit,” said Methot. “I thought it was a clean hit. I’ve been throwing hip checks my whole career and I’m six-foot three and I don’t think I can get much lower than his knees.”
Smith opened the scoring at 6:54 of the first period when he put a backhand in a very small opening between Fleury’s left skate and the post after the Penguins netminder made a pad save on Cody Ceci.
Anderson held Pittsburgh at bay and stopped two Penguins on breakaways in the second period, including one shorthanded by Brandon Sutter. The other was a glove save off James Neal.
In between those breakaways, Ryan scored his first goal in four games when he directed a point shot from Chris Phillips past Fleury at 5:56. It came on the same power play that the Senators surrendered on Sutter’s breakaway.
“A big part of the game was when they get the power play goal to go up 2-0 and we have several chances on the power play,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
“We had several good opportunities to score but we don’t cash in and certainly the game turns on that stretch where we had three power plays in the second and we don’t get a goal.”
The Penguins head into the break leading the eastern Conference while the Senators are in 10th place four points out of a playoff spot.
Notes- Patrick Wiercioch, Joe Corvo and Mika Zibanejad were scratches for the Senators Monday and for the Penguins, Deryk Engelland, Brian Gibbons and Evgeni Malkin were scratches…Ottawa is now 7-1-3 this season when leading a game after two period…Senators defenceman Chris Phillips snapped a 10-game pointless streak with a second-period assist…Sidney Crosby at least one point in 31 of Pittsburgh’s 39 games this season…Marc-Andre Fleury has played 499 career games, all with the Penguins…Penguins forward Chris Cooner turned 30 on Monday