OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators got more bang out of their big guns than the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Senators coach Craig Hartsburg and Penguins coach Michel Therrien skated their top lines against one another, with Ottawa's Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson getting the better of Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Petr Sykora for a 3-2 victory on Saturday.
Spezza's second career hat trick gave the Senators their fourth win in five games and pulled them back to .500 for the first time in a month.
"Hartsy challenged us before the game and said that we'd be matched up against them," Spezza said. "It's definitely nice to contribute on a big stage like this and get some confidence back.
"It's a big game for us. Now we have to build on it."
Spezza scored his goals in the second period on Penguins starting goaltender Dany Sabourin, staking Ottawa to leads of 2-0 and 3-1.
The Senators held on to hand Pittsburgh its second loss in three games.
"We didn't start well and Spezza had his big second period and gave them the lead. It's a matter of momentum a lot of times," said Crosby, who had an assist to extend his point-scoring streak to six games. He has six goals and nine assists in the span.
Otherwise, it was a frustrating day for Crosby and Co. In 10 career regular-season games against Ottawa, he has just one goal.
"We forced them to play a lot in their own end," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who left the game briefly in the second period after blocking a shot with his left foot but returned in time to set up Spezza's second goal.
Dany Heatley added a pair of assists and Alex Auld made 17 saves for Ottawa, which is 12-1-5 against Pittsburgh in their last 18 regular-season games.
Malkin and Jordan Staal each had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who were playing for the third time in four days, 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 wearing it.
Chris Neil was back in the Senators' lineup for the first time after missing six games following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus.
Also returning was defenseman Alexandre Picard, who missed two games with a wrist injury.
With Malkin and Crosby, who've both been playing center, 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, particularly if they were united.
"We were going to play head-to-head against these guys and if they were going to play together, we were going to play (opposite)," Spezza said.
Their first shift resulted in a Pittsburgh 3-on-1 that failed to result in a shot when Malkin lost the handle after a pass from Crosby.
It was Ottawa's big three that opened the scoring at the 4:01 mark of the second after Alfredsson blocked a shot at the Senators' blue-line. While he was skating to the bench in pain, Spezza broke down the wing and had his first shot blocked by Sabourin, but picked up his own rebound and scored on a wraparound.
Down 2-0, 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.
Spezza completed his hat trick in the final minute of the period, banking a pass attempt off a skate and in.
"Sometimes when you're hot, you find the spot or get some bounces," Sabourin said of Spezza's outing.
The last time he scored three goals in a game was Feb. 9, 2008, in a 6-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
He now has six goals in his last five games.
Notes: It was 18 years ago, on Dec. 6, 1990, that the NHL awarded the Senators franchise to Ottawa. ... Senators center Dean McAmmond missed his fourth straight game with the flu. ... Defenseman Christoph Schubert was a healthy scratch for Ottawa. ... The Senators' next game is Monday night at home to the Florida Panthers. ... Center Mike Zigomanis, who ranked second in the NHL in faceoff percentage, winning 62.9 percent of his faceoffs, was a scratch for the Penguins. ... Pittsburgh returns home to face the Buffalo Sabres, also on Monday.