OTTAWA – Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said that his team has to approach the final seven games of the regular season as a best-of-seven playoff series.
If that’s the case, he almost single-handedly gave the Senators the early series lead with an 8-4 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday, scoring two goals and setting up two others as Ottawa ended a three-game losing skid.
More importantly, Ottawa picked up two points as they try and stay in a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. With six games to play they are currently seventh, four points up on the ninth-place Washington Capitals who have a game in hand.
“We know it’s up to us and we have it in our own hands, fortunately,” Alfredsson said. “We talked about the importance of these seven games and that it’s like the playoffs already started with this seven-game series and we have to win at least four to give ourselves a good chance to make the playoffs.”
Milan Michalek had a goal and two assists for the Senators (38-28-10), while Kyle Turris, Jason Spezza and Sergei Gonchar each scored once and added an assist. Chris Phillips and Jason Spezza had the other goals and Nick Foligno had three assists.
“It builds confidence, not only offensively but also with the way we played. Everybody played really hard and usually when you do that everything falls into place—penalty killing, power play, five-on-five,” said Alfredsson. “We’ve been a little tentative at times and cautious and that’s really not our style. When we keep skating and going after the puck like we did tonight we can be successful.”
Ben Bishop started in the Ottawa goal but left midway through the game with a lower body injury and did not return. He was replaced by Craig Anderson.
Matt Cooke had two goals for the Penguins (46-22-6) and Sidney Crosby a goal and an assist. Tyler Kennedy also scored. Brad Thiessen allowed eight goals on 28 shots, but Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma didn’t blame his young goalie.
“I can’t think of one goal off the top of my head that wasn’t a good goal. There was a tip off the chest, back door on the power play, defence coming down the slot…it wasn’t a lot of pucks that he had a chance on,” Bylsma said.
The Senators had three third-period goals, including three in the final seven minutes to put the game away. Spezza, Alfredsson and Greening all scored after Crosby opened the scoring in the third period with his first goal since the first game of his first comeback.
Four second-period goals, including one shorthanded and another on the power play, gave the Senators a 5-3 lead heading into the third. The Penguins had a 2-1 lead heading into the second.
Gonchar tied the game at 2-2 just 33 seconds into the second as he moved in from the slot, took a pass from Foligno, and beat Thiessen with a shot from the hash marks.
Phillips gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead at 7:05 as he beat Thiessen from the right faceoff dot after Turris hit him with a perfect pass. Turris then scored his first goal in seven games at 7:41 to give the Senators a two-goal lead.
That lead quickly dropped back down to one, however, as Kennedy scored 15 seconds later. That was the last goal Bishop would allow as he was replaced by Anderson at 9:23.
Bishop missed out on seeing Alfredsson score on a short-handed breakaway with Crosby in hot pursuit.
“We were really proud of that and I thought everyone played really well,” Foligno said. “It was tough to see (Bishop) go down but (Anderson) stepped right in and did an awesome job and we just took off. We got big goals from every line. We were able to reap some benefits tonight and hopefully it continues.”
Ottawa had opened the scoring at 9:06 of the first period when Michalek picked up the puck from in front of Thiessen’s pad and quickly deposited it into the empty cage.
The Penguins got that back and another as Cooke scored at 9:46 and 13:01, the second being a redirection in front after Crosby spun around and delivered a no-look pass in front to Cooke.
Notes: It’s the first time this season that Ottawa has scored eight times or that Pittsburgh has allowed eight goals…Chris Phillips’ power-play goal was the first for the Senators in 25 opportunities…Sidney Crosby has recorded multiple points in eight of his 14 games this season…Peter Regin and Jesse Winchester have each missed the past 42 games for the Senators with a shoulder injury and concussion respectively…Goaltender Brent Johnson missed his 15th straight game for the Penguins while teammate Joe Vitale missed his fourth, both for undisclosed injuries.