OTTAWA – The 800-game mark will only come along once in Chris Phillips’ career.
Scoring two goals in the same game has arrived with only slightly more frequency for the Ottawa Senators defenceman. Playing in the 800th regular-season contest, the low-scoring blue-liner notched just the third two-goal outing of his 12-season NHL career and his first in almost eight years Thursday night to help the Senators beat up on the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 6-2.
“Philly played great. It should be his 800th game every night,” quipped teammate Chris Kelly.
“You’re not expecting two, for sure,” said Phillips, who’s already halfway to the six-goal total he recorded over all 82 games last season. “It feels good to do it.”
The last time the Calgary native accomplished the feat was against his hometown Flames on Nov. 22, 2001.
His goals were part of a four-goal third-period outburst by the Senators (10-6-3), who defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions before a crowd of 17,039 at Scotiabank Place.
“It was one of those high-energy games, for us anyways, and it’s nice (to win it),” Phillips said. “There are a lot of things going on right now that made it a big game for us. Internally, we talked about it a lot. We wanted a good effort. The last few games we’ve had one area going or some guys going and tonight we wanted to piece it all together and I thought we did a good job of that.”
It was Ottawa’s second straight victory and marked the first time in more than a month that the Senators have won back-to-back contests.
“We need to get on a roll,” said Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire. “Every team that gets into the post-season needs a winning streak. It’s a start.”
Kelly notched what would prove to be the winner with his first goal of the season in the third before Phillips and Jonathan Cheechoo piled on the misery for a Penguins team that had won two straight games despite their injury-riddled lineup.
Penguins starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury gave up five goals on 24 shots before being pulled in favour of Brent Johnson.
The Penguins (14-8-0) had taken the lead through Jordan Staal just 69 seconds in, but it didn’t last and they never quite got rolling.
“You look at the first couple of periods and neither team really had much going. They had chances in the third and they capitalized. We had a bad third, that’s for sure,” said Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who was held without a point for the first time in four games. “We’ve just got to be better.”
Matt Carkner and Milan Michalek, on the power play, also scored for the Senators, whose last consecutive wins came Oct. 15 and 17.
Leclaire stopped 25 shots in goal, Mike Fisher recorded three assists and Nick Foligno and Alexandre Picard had two apiece. Kelly also set up a goal in addition to scoring.
After the game, Senators coach Cory Clouston confirmed that Alex Kovalev was leaving the team to return home to Russia following the death of his mother-in-law and isn’t expected back before Monday at the earliest, meaning he’ll miss Saturday’s game at home to Buffalo and possibly Monday’s contest with Washington.
Also scoring for Pittsburgh was Evgeni Malkin, with a late power-play marker.
Johnson stopped six of seven shots the rest of the way as the Penguins began their three-game road trip by falling to 3-5-0 in the month of November.
Still without defencemen Alex Goligoski, Kris Letang, Jay McKee and Brooks Orpik and forwards Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy, the Penguins did get some help when star blue-liner Sergei Gonchar returned to the lineup after missing 12 games because of a broken wrist.
Also back in the lineup was Stanley Cup final Game 7 hero Maxime Talbot, who scored both of the Penguins goals in their 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings to claim the Cup. Talbot made his season debut after undergoing shoulder surgery in July.
Crosby carried the Olympic torch Wednesday in Halifax as the flame relay passed through his home province of Nova Scotia.
On Thursday, it was back to trying to help the Penguins overcome their lengthy injury list again.
Pittsburgh started well enough, however, the Senators battled back and tied the game through Carkner before Michalek made it 2-1 early in the second.
The Penguins had three straight power-play chances to try and find the equalizer, but as Kelly jumped out of the penalty box early in the third after the Senators had successfully killed the last of those, he took a breakaway pass from Fisher and beat Fleury to make it 3-1.
Phillips then scored twice with low shots from sharp angles, the second coming at the 7:12 mark of the third, and that was the end of the night for Fleury.
“(Staal’s goal) was a good wake-up call and we reacted well,” Leclaire said. “It was good. It was a tight game for two periods, then we exploded.”
Notes:(at) Michalek’s goal was the 100th of his career. a Call-up Chris Lee took the pre-game skate for the Penguins in case Mark Eaton (back spasms) wasn’t fit to play, but Eaton did suit up.