OTTAWA – Lucky Seven for the Pittsburgh Penguins put a dent in the Ottawa Senators’ playoff hopes.
Tomas Vokoun made 34 saves in collecting his 300th career win Monday as the Penguins defeated the Senators 3-1 for their seventh straight victory, dropping Ottawa into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
“They were better than we were from start to finish,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said bluntly. “They were harder at the nets … at both nets than we were and executed way better than we did.”
Dustin Jeffrey, with a goal and an assist, Jarome Iginla and Tyler Kennedy scored for Pittsburgh (35-10-0), which got two assists from Brenden Morrow.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma gave credit to his 36-year-old backup goalie’s milestone performance.
“The numbers are significant. I think (Vokoun is) the 28th guy to get to 300 wins and those are very impressive numbers as a goaltender. I thought he was very good in the net tonight and he was strong,” said Bylsma, who also reached a milestone with his 200th NHL victory.
“When you look at career wins for coaches, I’m not sure where 200 wins is. It’s a long way to go to some of the other good coaches, but certainly I’m happy to have gotten it and I got the puck.”
Penguins forward Matt Cooke also had an assist in his first game against Ottawa since his skate blade sliced the Achilles tendon of Senators star defenceman Erik Karlsson on Feb 13.
Karlsson was expected to miss the rest of the season following surgery, but the defending Norris Trophy winner is back practising and could return to the Ottawa lineup soon.
Patrick Wiercioch had the only goal for the Senators (23-16-6), who have dropped two straight. Craig Anderson stopped 21 shots in taking the loss.
Ottawa started the night seventh in the conference and could have leapt over the sixth-place New York Islanders. Instead the Senators are now eighth, tied on points with the seventh-place New York Rangers.
The Penguins, who have already clinched first overall in the Eastern Conference, were without the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, among others, because of injuries and illness.
Penguins No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was back in Pittsburgh with his wife expecting their first child.
“I don’t know why we started that way. We weren’t taking them lightly,” Senators defenceman Marc Methot said. “We’re well aware (Pittsburgh) has a deep hockey squad, despite all their injuries. They capitalized on a couple of opportunities and that was the difference.”
On top off falling back to eighth, the Senators didn’t get any help on the out-of-town scoreboard as Winnipeg defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1. The ninth-place Jets now trail the Senators and Rangers by just a single point, but both New York and Ottawa have a game in hand.
Winnipeg plays at Washington on Tuesday night, while the Rangers visit Florida. The Senators are off until Thursday’s road game against the Capitals.
Although there was talk of revenge on Cooke for the Karlsson injury, not much came of it other than his refusal to fight Ottawa’s Chris Neil in the opening minutes.
The only rough treatment Cooke received was booing from fans every time he touched the puck.
“We’re leaving here with two points and putting pressure on Chicago for first overall. I’m not even (thinking) about (the Karlsson injury) anymore,” said Cooke, who added he’s glad the game has come and gone. “It was a freak accident and there was nothing I could have done to change it. It’s an unfortunate part of this game. I’m happy he’s having a great recovery and hopefully he’s playing soon.”
The Penguins jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead midway through the first period on Monday. Jeffrey scored his third of the season off a one-timer at 6:15 following a cross-ice pass from Morrow, who then fed Iginla for his 13th of the campaign at 10:28.
Weircoch got Ottawa on the board thanks to a power-play goal at 7:18 of the third for his fifth of the season, but Kennedy put it away with his sixth of the campaign with 2:34 left in regulation off a nice feed from Cooke.
Following a penalty-filled opening period, the Senators started the second with fresh ice and nearly a full two minutes of power-play time but were unable to register a single shot on Vokoun, who was playing in his 700th career game
Ottawa has had 85 shots in the last two games, including Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but has just two goals to show for it.
“We need more from the whole team, and it’s not like a whole bunch more,” MacLean said. “We just need a little bit more, and it has to be from everybody.”
Notes: The Penguins were first in the NHL with 3.34 goals per game scored heading into Monday. The Senators were second in goals against allowing just 2.09 per game, just slightly more than the Chicago Blackhawks. … The Penguins (19-0-0) are one of just three teams (N.Y. Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets) that have not lost a game this season when leading after two periods. … The Penguins are 22-3-0 against the seven other Eastern Conference teams currently occupying a playoff position. … Crosby continues to lead the NHL in scoring despite having played nine fewer games than his closest pursuer. … Senators defenceman Chris Phillips is one assist shy of 200 for his career.