OTTAWA - Jason Spezza scored three goals to record his second career hat trick Saturday and the Ottawa Senators went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2.
A sold-out crowd of 19,561 at Scotiabank Place watched Spezza beat Penguins goaltender Dany Sabourin on three occasions in the second period as the Senators climbed back to the .500 mark with their fourth victory in the past five games.
Dany Heatley added a pair of assists and Alex Auld made 17 saves for Ottawa (10-10-4), which ran its regular-season record to 12-1-5 in its past 18 games against Pittsburgh.
Spezza now has six goals in his last five games.
NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal each had a goal and an assist for the Penguins (15-7-4), who were playing for the third time in four days.
Malkin's goal was a short-handed effort while Staal's came on the power play.
Sidney Crosby had an assist to extend his point-scoring streak to six games, during which he has six goals and nine assists, and Sabourin stopped 28 shots.
The Senators remained unbeaten in their new black-based third jersey. Since the shirt made its debut on Nov. 22, Ottawa is 4-0 when sporting it.
Chris Neil was back in the Senators' lineup for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus, a procedure that sidelined him for the past six games.
Also returning was defenceman Alexandre Picard, who missed two games with a wrist injury.
With Malkin and Crosby coming into the game ranked 1-2 in NHL scoring with 41 and 39 points, respectively, it seemed Ottawa's big job would be to try and contain the double threat.
However, Senators coach Craig Hartsburg went power against power often, matching his top line of Spezza, Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson against Malkin, Crosby and Petr Sykora.
The first time the top lines went opposite one another, it resulted in a Pittsburgh 3-on-1 that failed to result in a shot after Malkin lost the handle after a pass from Crosby.
With the Penguins' duo looking the more dangerous, it was Ottawa's big three that opened the scoring at the 4:01 mark of the second.
Alfredsson blocked a shot at the Senators' blue-line and while he was skating to the bench in pain, favouring his left foot, Spezza broke down the wing and had his first shot blocked by Sabourin, but picked up his own rebound and scored on a wraparound.
Less than five minutes later, Alfredsson returned to help get the puck out front to Spezza to score his second of the game.
The Penguins cut Ottawa's lead to a goal with Spezza in the penalty box for hooking, when Staal redirected a pass in the slot from Crosby.
It was the first power-play goal Ottawa has given up in five games.
Spezza completed his hat trick in the final minute of the period, banking a pass attempt off a Penguins' player and behind Sabourin.
The last time he scored three goals in a game was Feb. 9, 2008, in a 6-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
With the Senators on the power play midway through the third, defenceman Brendan Bell gave the puck away to Staal at the Penguins' blue-line and he sent Malkin in alone to be beat Auld and make it 3-2, but that was as close as Pittsburgh could get.
Notes: It was 18 years ago, on Dec. 6, 1990, that the NHL awarded the Senators franchise to Ottawa. ...Senators centre Dean McAmmond missed his fourth straight game with the flu. ...Defenceman Christoph Schubert was a healthy scratch for Ottawa. ...The Senators next game is Monday night at home to the Florida Panthers. ...Centre Mike Zigomanis, who ranked second in the NHL in faceoff percentage, winning 62.9 per cent of his faceoffs, was a scratch for the Penguins. ...Pittsburgh returns home to face the Buffalo Sabres, also on Monday.