PITTSBURGH -- In the media room at Consol Energy Center about half an hour after the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Ottawa Senators, 4-2, Wednesday night, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma beamed about winger Matt Cooke, calling his performance "Matt's best game, 5-on-5, of the year to this point."
On the other side of the arena, the sentiments for Cooke weren't nearly as warm.
Cooke had an assist while fitting in nicely during his first extended action of the season as Evgeni Malkin's left wing. But the Senators weren't impressed, not after losing star defenseman Erik Karlsson long-term as the result of a collision with Cooke.
Karlsson, the Senators' 22-year-old reigning Norris Trophy winner, sustained a laceration to his left Achilles. It will require surgery to repair, leaving him out indefinitely, perhaps for the season.
"Obviously, the way he's playing and how much he means for us, for our team it feels terrible," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "And I feel really bad for him."
Karlsson was killing a penalty when Cooke came from behind to pin him against the left-wing boards. Cooke's left skate made contact with the back of Karlsson's lower left leg, leaving Karlsson in sharp pain. He immediately headed to the locker room.
There was no penalty called on the play on Cooke, who has a history of supplemental discipline from the NHL.
"Him and I were engaged, and he went down screaming," Cooke said. "I didn't even know what happened.
"It's a complete accident. Obviously, I feel terrible about it. I'm not trying to do that, obviously. It's happened a few times over the past couple years, and it's scary."
The Senators didn't seem to agree with Cooke's assertion that the incident was an accident. General manager Bryan Murray was overheard angrily telling observers to watch the replay, pointing out it was Cooke.
"We all know who's involved in it," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "That's just the way it is. Injuries are part of the game. We have to move forward."
Karlsson isn't the only high-profile injury for the Senators, who lost for the fifth time in their past seven games. The team learned shortly before faceoff they would be without top-line wing Milan Michalek, who sustained a lower-body injury during warm-ups.
The Senators already were without center Jason Spezza, who had back surgery this month.
Pascal Dupuis scored, Paul Martin had two assists, and Neal added an assist to give him his first three-point game of the season for the Penguins, who were coming off a being swept in a home-and-home by the New Jersey Devils.
Neal's first of the game was his NHL-best sixth of the season on the power play, tying the game 2-2 at 6:23 of the second period off a feed from Crosby.
The Penguins have a power-play goal in six consecutive games.
Neal gave the Penguins the lead, 3-2, 1:52 into the third when he pounced on a rebound of a Deryk Engelland shot from the point that had been deflected by Cooke.
Neal has 10 goals this season. Only Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, with 12, has more.
"He has a great shot that's tough to stop when he gets time and gets chance to get a release like that," Crosby said, referring to Neal's first goal.
The Penguins scored first for the 11th time in 14 games this season when Dupuis finished a set-up from Crosby 16:23 into the contest.
Pittsburgh closed the scoring when Crosby got his goal seconds after a holding penalty to Chris Phillips had expired 11:42 into the third. It was Crosby's sixth of the season, the second in his past six games.
Ottawa scored twice in a 24-second span midway through the second, each a soft one against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Da Costa scored the instant a Senators' power play expired and 40 seconds after Pittsburgh had killed 1:20 of Ottawa's 5-on-3 time. Da Costa was against the boards and over Fleury's right shoulder behind the net when he flipped the puck toward him that somehow found its way through Fleury's equipment and bounced in for Da Costa's first of the season and fourth career goal in 31 games.
Shortly thereafter and on the next shot of the game, O'Brien beat Fleury with a wrist shot from the left wing for his seventh career goal in 47 games, his fourth of the season.
"That was a quick two goals that turned the game around," Fleury said. "But I think nobody panicked, and we stuck to our game plan and everything was good."
A day after Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson registered his second shutout of the season, he allowed a season-high four goals on 30 shots. He was the NHL leader in goals-against average and save percentage entering the game.
Fleury made 27 saves to win for the fourth time in his past five starts.
"A little bit of rust, but for the most part I felt pretty good," Niskanen said.
|Pascal Dupuis (5) ASST: Sidney Crosby (13), Chris Kunitz (10)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Stephane Da Costa (1) ASST: Daniel Alfredsson (5), Sergei Gonchar (6)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Jim O'Brien (4) ASST: Erik Condra (3)|
2 - 1 OTT
|PPG - James Neal (9) ASST: Sidney Crosby (14), Paul Martin (6)|
2 - 2 Tie
|James Neal (10) ASST: Matt Cooke (3), Deryk Engelland (2)|
3 - 2 PIT
|Sidney Crosby (6) ASST: Paul Martin (7), James Neal (3)|
4 - 2 PIT
|Paul Martin Tripping against Zack Smith|
|Jim O'Brien Holding against Sidney Crosby|
|Paul Martin Hooking against Mika Zibanejad|
|Pascal Dupuis Hooking against Stephane Da Costa|
|Chris Phillips Hooking against Zach Boychuk|
|Paul Martin Tripping against Kyle Turris|
|Chris Phillips Holding against Pascal Dupuis|
|Chris Neil Roughing against Matt Cooke|
|Chris Neil Roughing against Matt Cooke|
|Chris Neil Misconduct (10 min)|
|Matt Cooke Misconduct (10 min)|