Dany Heatley scored Ottawa’s first and last goals and Jason Spezza added a goal and two assists, leading the Senators to a 6-3 victory over the Penguins on Friday night that ended the franchise’s longest losing streak in 10 years.
The Senators had blown leads in three consecutive games during a five-game losing streak. This time, they built a lead they couldn’t squander, scoring three goals in a row after Penguins rookie Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth goal in 10 games – but first in four – to tie it 2-2 about six minutes into the second period.
“We feel we’ve played pretty well the last two or three games but haven’t had much to show for it,” Heatley said. “We had another pretty good effort and got rewarded.”
Andrej Meszaros, Wade Redden and Peter Schaefer, all infrequent scorers, scored the next three goals to make it 5-2. Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury got little defensive help as the Penguins again were outshot by a large margin in their fourth straight loss.
The Senators have won seven in a row against Pittsburgh since Nov. 22, 2003. Ottawa goalie Martin Gerber let in three goals on 17 shots, but managed to secure the Senators’ first victory since they beat Toronto 7-2 Oct. 26.
Ottawa’s losing streak was its longest since a seven-game slide in late February and early March 1996.
Meszaros’ second goal of the season came on a slap shot from just inside the blue-line after a ricocheting puck bounced back to him after the Penguins couldn’t control it around their net. Redden scored his first, and only the second power-play goal in Ottawa’s last 26 attempts, on a hard wrist shot that Fleury may not have seen while being screened. Schaefer also scored his first of the season.
“You can have a big line or a big individual to score goals, but to get Redden to score, to get Meszaros to score, to get Schaefer to score, these are critical things,” Senators coach Bryan Murray said.
Heatley, the Senators’ top goal-scorer, got his ninth on a Redden feed when Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar left him alone around the net less than four minutes into the game. Heatley added his 10th of the season with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the game,
“We had so many good chances,” Murray said. “We just can’t seem to put the games away early enough for my liking. I thought Fleury played terrific for them and we still got six goals.”
Penguins star Sidney Crosby said he and his teammates weren’t physical or aggressive enough on defence. Even when they had defenders correctly positioned, such as Gonchar on Heatley’s first goal, they didn’t put enough pressure on the puck or the player.
“We got caught watching too much,” Crosby said. “We were in position, but we weren’t moving our feet. You have to be able to win (one-on-one) battles and compete.”
After winning seven of their first 10, the Penguins – the NHL’s second-youngest team – are slumping mostly because they can’t keep teams out of their zone for extended stretches. Ottawa outshot them 44-17, and opponents have a 149-81 edge in shots during Pittsburgh’s losing streak.
“Nobody showed up,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “It was a big game for us, the crowd was unreal, sold out. How could you not show up? I hope it’s not their character. … We gave away too many shots, too many scoring chances.”
Malkin scored on a wrist shot from along the goal line that eluded Gerber after Crosby made a between-the-legs feed to Michel Ouellet, who threw the puck ahead to Malkin. Maxime Talbot scored a short-handed goal midway through the third, and Ouellet also scored after being set up by Malkin.
Notes: Ottawa led the Eastern Conference with 113 points last season. … Gerber had allowed 12 goals in his last three games. … Despite the ongoing losing streak, Pittsburgh had gotten points in seven of its previous eight games. The Penguins lost in overtime Monday at Anaheim and Wednesday at home to Tampa Bay. … Ottawa came into the game with the NHL’s second-worst power play. … Daniel Alfredsson assisted on Redden’s goal and Heatley’s second goal. … The Penguins play at Carolina on Saturday, the first time D Brooks Orpik will oppose the Hurricanes since breaking F Erik Cole’s neck with a hard hit into the boards last March. Orpik, suspended three games for the hit, was injured and didn’t play when Carolina won 5-1 in Pittsburgh on Oct. 14.