The Ottawa Senators
more than met their coach's challenge.
With the Pittsburgh Penguins
coming to Scotiabank Place on Saturday, Craig Hartsburg
opted to match his big guns — the "Pizza Line" of Jason Spezza
between Dany Heatley
and Daniel Alfredsson
— against the Penguins' top unit of Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
, with Petr Sykora
All three Ottawa stars stepped up, but none more than Spezza, who carried Ottawa to a 3-2 victory by scoring three times in the second period. Heatley had two assists and Alfredsson had one.
"Hartsy challenged us before the game and said that we'd be matched up against them," Spezza said after the Senators improved to 10-10-4. "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."
The Penguins (15-7-4) lost for the second time 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 on Jordan Staal
's second-period power-play goal to extend his point-scoring streak to six games, during which he has 6 goals and 9 assists. His 40 points are second in the League to Malkin, whose assist on Staal's tally and third-period shorthanded goal gave him 43 points.
However, it was an otherwise frustrating day for Crosby — though that's nothing unusual for him when playing Ottawa. In 10 career regular-season games against the Senators, he has just one goal.
"We forced them to play a lot in their own end," said 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.
made 17 saves for Ottawa, which is now 12-1-5 in its past 18 regular-season games against Pittsburgh.
After the first shift matching the big lines resulted in a 3-on-1 for Pittsburgh that was aborted when Malkin lost the handle after a pass from Crosby, the Senators settled down and rose to the task.
"It's fun to play those games and a big challenge to play two of the best players in the world," Alfredsson said. "You've got to be on your toes every shift."
Ottawa's big three opened the scoring at 4:01 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 stopped by Dany Sabourin
, but picked up his own rebound and scored on a wraparound.
Spezza made it 2-0 at 8:52, with help from both linemates, but the Penguins got on the board at 16:17, while he was in the penalty box, as Staal tipped Crosby's pass behind Auld.
However, Spezza restored Ottawa's two-goal lead and completed his first hat trick since Feb. 9 when he banked a puck off a skate and into the net with 31 seconds left in the period for his sixth goal in five games.
"Our line has done a good job of finding each other and we're starting to come together a little bit," Spezza said.
Malkin scored on a shorthanded breakaway midway through the third period, but the Penguins — playing their third game in less than 72 hours — couldn't get the equalizer.
"We didn't give up," Crosby said. "Obviously, we didn't want to be in that situation, down two in the third, but we tried battling at the end there and couldn't pull it off."
Material from wire services was used in this report