For the Ottawa Senators
, it wasn’t about how they started Saturday but how they finished.
Daniel Alfredsson scored in the final seconds of overtime and the Senators rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 at Mellon Arena and avoided falling out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference for the first time all season.
New Jersey had temporarily jumped past Ottawa with a victory earlier Saturday, and the Penguins could have done the same with a regulation win. But Dany Heatley scored a pair of goals to help force overtime, and Alfredsson put a backhander past Ty Conklin with 3.2 seconds remaining to complete the comeback.
"I think it was a real good effort," said Alfredsson, whose 35 goals lead the Senators. "We've been getting better the last few games and we had some penalty trouble early on and some turnovers in the second, but it shows a lot of heart."
The Senators’ victory gave them 78 points, one ahead of New Jersey and two in front of Pittsburgh, and also assured they would retain their lead over Montreal in the Northeast Division.
Petr Sykora scored an early power-play goal for the Penguins, who extended their lead in the second when Colby Armstrong and Jeff Taffe beat Ray Emery. Pittsburgh received six straight power plays over the first two periods, but came up empty on the final five.
"We kind of let it slip away, especially in the first getting that many power plays that early," Ryan Malone said. "We kind of needed to bury the hatchet there. ... You've got to be disappointed in the fact that we did blow a three-goal lead and we're going to have to learn from that."
Cory Stillman scored less than three minutes after Taffe made it 3-0 and the Senators began to work their way back despite receiving only one power play in the game – an opportunity early in the third which failed.
"How often do you come back from being down 3-0, especially with the help of no penalties?" Senators coach John Paddock said. "I think it will make them feel good and they'll be a little bit looser."
The Senators also managed to hold Evgeni Malkin off the scoresheet. The Penguins’ second-year superstar, who has been almost unstoppable since captain Sidney Crosby went out of the lineup, showed his frustration when he missed on three good scoring chances during a second-period shift and broke his stick against the boards.
"He caused some problems but we were able to keep him off the score sheet," Emery said of Malkin, who had scored 24 points in 10 games since Jan. 30. "It (the win) makes everything better after how we started and the mistakes we made."
Emery ran hot and cold – he made 16 saves in the first before allowing two goals on just seven shots in the second – but finished with 32 saves and made a key stop on Sergei Gonchar in the closing seconds of overtime, just before Alfredsson’s winner.
Stillman picked up his second goal with the Senators and his 23rd of the season with 7:13 left in the middle period and Heatley cut the deficit to 3-2 with 2:46 remaining.
Heatley then netted his second of the game and 30th of the season at 6:09 of the third, getting free in front after Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi left him to try to make a play behind the cage.
"They've got guys who can score and their big guys did," Armstrong said.
As he has done several times in recent weeks, Paddock broke up his big line of Alfredsson, Heatley and Jason Spezza at the start of the game. They played together at times, though, and Spezza picked up an assist on Heatley’s tying goal.
Conklin made 24 saves for the Penguins, who are due to get Marc-Andre Fleury back Sunday from a five-game rehabilitation stint with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. Fleury, like Crosby, has been out with a high ankle sprain and last played on Dec. 6 against Calgary.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.