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Senators pound Penguins 8-4

by Erin Nicks
KANATA, Ont. -- On a night when his team needed him, Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson responded with his biggest offensive night of the season.

Alfredsson scored twice and assisted on two other goals as the Senators upstaged Sidney Crosby, NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins by routing Pittsburgh 8-4 before a packed house at Scotiabank Place.

"We just kept working and plugging away," Alfredsson said. "It seemed like we got some momentum and getting some help from our special teams was huge."

Milan Michalek had a goal and two assists, Nick Foligno set up three goals and Sergei Gonchar, and Kyle Turris, Jason Spezza and Colin Greening each had a goal and an assist. Two of the goals came on the power play – a timely recovery after remaining silent in the previous 24 attempts. The win kept the seventh-place Senators two points ahead of eighth-place Buffalo and four in front of ninth-place Washington.

"I think for us, we've been a little bit streaky -- that's not uncommon for any team," coach Paul MacLean said. "Usually when we win one, we win a few. That's the confidence we take from tonight. Sometimes, when you lose a couple in a row, you think, ‘We're never going to win again.' Then when you win a couple, it's like you're never going to lose."

Matt Cooke scored twice for the Penguins, who lost in regulation for the first time in 15 games, while Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist. Malkin was held off the scoresheet as Pittsburgh fell three points behind the New York Rangers in the race for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Ottawa's Ben Bishop made 17 saves before he was relieved by Craig Anderson in the second period due to a lower-body injury. Anderson, who was routed in Friday's 5-1 loss at Montreal, stopped 19 of 20 shots. MacLean said that Bishop would be evaluated on Sunday.

"It's tough to see (Bishop) get hurt; he's played real well for us," Spezza said. "But to see (Anderson) come in and be solid, and not have a start where he's thinking about it all day … knowing him, I think that will give him some confidence moving forward."

The Senators shredded rookie Brad Thiessen for eight goals on just 28 shots.

"We didn't give him much help," Crosby said. "We made some big mistakes and didn't give him a chance. We have to regroup and get back right at it tomorrow."

Ottawa opened the scoring 9:06 into the game when Michalek tucked the rebound of Greening's slapper past Thiessen's skate and into the net for his 33rd of the season.

Pittsburgh responded 40 seconds later, when Cooke's wrist shot from the right faceoff dot trickled slowly through the five-hole of Bishop. The Penguins went ahead at 13:01 when Crosby took Paul Martin's long breakout pass, got to the right circle and made a spinorama move to the net before firing a shot at Bishop. Cooke got a piece of the shot and deflected it past Bishop for his seventh goal in six games since Crosby's return to the lineup on March 15.

MacLean was visibly displeased after the Crosby showcase, and the home team came out flying in the second. The Senators tied it 33 seconds in when Foligno skated the puck out from behind the net and fed Gonchar, who was waiting in the high slot and wristed a shot past Thiessen's left side.

Ottawa then went ahead to stay with two goals in 36 seconds. Chris Phillips one-timed Turris' pass into the net at 7:05 for a power-play goal – his fourth on the man-advantage and fifth of the season. Foligno's shot deflected off Turris' arm and bobbled into the net at 7:41 for a 4-2 lead.

"Sticks and bodies in front of the net," Turris said, making a joke.

It became 4-3 just 16 seconds later when Jordan Staal picked off a pass by Erik Karlsson to trigger a 2-on-1 break. Steve Sullivan fed Tyler Kennedy, who roofed a shot past Bishop.

Spezza's hooking penalty at 14:50 gave the Penguins a chance to get even, but Michalek's pass sent Alfredsson in for a shorthanded breakaway, and he snapped a high shot past the rookie goaltender at 16:07 for his third shorthanded goal of the season and a 5-3 lead.

Crosby sprung to life in the third period and finally found the back of the net at 11:43, converting a pass out from Arron Asham with a wrist shot that beat Anderson. It was Crosby's first goal since he scored twice against the Islanders on Nov. 21, his first game back after missing nearly 11 months with a concussion.

"It's always nice to score, but we play to win," Crosby said. "It doesn't change a thing."

But with the Penguins' pressing for goals, Ottawa took advantage of poor defensive coverage to blow the game open. Michalek sent Spezza in for a breakaway, and Spezza beat Thiessen easily at 13:16. Foligno sliced through the defense and fed Alfredsson at the right side of the net for a backhander at 17:05 and Greening capped the scoring 63 seconds later with a power-play goal.

"We got our fair share of shots," Crosby said. "They clogged the neutral zone up and obviously we didn't keep things tight enough on our side. We gave them opportunities and they capitalized on it."

Like Crosby, coach Dan Bylsma refused to lay blame on Thiessen.

"We were chasing and they took advantage of some missed coverages," Bylsma said. "I can't think of one goal off the top of my head that wasn't a good goal. There was a tip off the chest, back door on the power play, defense coming down the slot … there wasn't a lot of pucks that he had a chance on."

Sullivan left midway through the second period and did not return. There was no update on his status. The Penguins return home to host New Jersey on Sunday night.
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