The Senators led the NHL last season with 258 non-shootout goals on the way to a second-place finish in the Northeast Division and their 11th consecutive playoff berth. But this season has been a totally different story.
The Sens enter the weekend last in the NHL with 118 non-shootout goals (2.36 per game) in 50 games, five fewer than Nashville, which has played 51. Every other team has scored at least eight more goals than the punchless Senators, who are on track to become the first team since the 1942-43 New York Rangers to go from first to last in offense in one year (and the Rangers had an excuse -- their roster was decimated by players going off to fight in World War II). Not surprisingly, the Senators have just 42 points, putting them last in their division, 13th in the Eastern Conference and 28th in the overall standings.
More incredible is that the Senators are struggling to score despite having one of the NHL's best (on paper, anyway) lines -- the "Pizza Line" of center Jason Spezza (who averaged 90 points in the last three seasons); left wing Dany Heatley (50, 50 and 41 goals in that same span); and right wing Daniel Alfredsson (102 goals, 279 points in the past three seasons). That trio's production is way down this season -- they've accounted for 56 goals in Ottawa's 50 games, a pace that would produce 92 goals over a full season, a big drop from 115 in 2007-08.
But more alarming is the fact that the rest of the team is struggling even more. The Pizza Line's 56 goals are 47.9 percent of the team total, the highest percentage of team scoring by any line in the NHL. No other Ottawa player has more than the 7 goals by No. 2 center Mike Fisher and forward Mike Foligno, and defenseman Filip Kuba (1-24-25) is the only other Senator with more than 20 points.
New coach Cory Clouston's first job will be to jump-start the offense -- a task that got off to a bad start when Ottawa was shut out 1-0 at home by Los Angeles in his first game behind the bench. He has to hope that Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to Boston, a game in which Ottawa got a point after trailing 2-0, is a start in the right direction.
Bad timing -- Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin continues to lead the NHL in scoring and is on pace for 35+ goals and well over 100 points. But his goals weren't translating into points for the Penguins -- at least until Wednesday night. That's when he scored his 22nd and 23rd of the season, helping the Penguins rally from a 3-0 third-period deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime.
Malkin's second goal of the night came with 15.5 seconds remaining in OT and gave the Penguins the victory. It also marked the first time since Jan. 13 that he'd scored a goal in a game that Pittsburgh won. Since that 4-2 win over Philadelphia, Malkin had scored single goals in five of Pittsburgh's six games -- and the Pens had lost all five, going 0-4-1. Ironically, the one game in which he didn't score was the one the Penguins won -- a 6-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Jan. 28.
Penguin power -- Malkin's OT winner was just the latest example of the fact that you've got to play a full 60 minutes to beat the Penguins -- even with a lead that looks safe.
The come-from-behind victory was Pittsburgh's League-high ninth this season when trailing after two periods -- no other team has more than six. The Penguins also won for the League-best third time when trailing by three or more goals -- something that's happened just 14 times this season. The Pens also have two of the five wins by teams that trailed by three goals in the third period -- they also rallied from a 5-2 deficit to beat the Red Wings 7-6 at Detroit on Nov. 11. The return match is Sunday at Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m., NBC).
On the other hand, the Penguins are one of four teams that have blown a lead of three or more goals and lost the game more than once. Toronto has done it three times; the New York Islanders, Penguins and Lightning have lost two such games.
Devoted to Detroit -- There must be something about Detroit that encourages loyalty in its legends.
Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom became the ninth player in NHL history to play 1,300 games with one franchise when he suited up for the Red Wings on Thursday night against Phoenix -- and ultimately scored the winning goal in a 5-4 victory.
Of the nine players, four have played 1,300 or more games with the Red Wings. Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman and Alex Delvecchio never suited up for another NHL team; Gordie Howe played one season with Hartford after returning from the WHA, where he went after coming out of retirement following 1,687 games with the Wings.
Spoiling the party -- Hall of Famers Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate have to hope they bring better luck to their old team than Adam Graves did when the New York Rangers retire their numbers on Feb. 22. Graves became the sixth Ranger to have his number retired when his No. 9 was lifted to the Madison Square Garden rafters on Tuesday -- but the Rangers disappointed the sellout crowd by losing 2-1 in a shootout to the Atlanta Thrashers.
But losing a game after retiring a number is nothing new for the Rangers -- they've lost four of the six games (one in a shootout) on nights when they've done it. The Rangers lost in regulation after retiring No. 7 for Rod Gilbert in 1979, No. 1 for Ed Giacomin in 1989 and No. 35 for Mike Richter in 2004. The only wins came after they retired No. 11 for Mark Messier in 2006 and No. 2 for Brian Leetch last season.