A starting lineup for an NHL All-Star Game – Sidney Crosby (jaw), Evgeni Malkin (upper body), James Neal (concussion), Kris Letang (food poisoning), Paul Martin (hand) and Marc-Andre Fleury (his wife is expecting their first child) – did not travel with the team to Ottawa, along with an AHL All-Star in Beau Bennett (he is day-to-day with an upper-body injury).
But tonight, let’s not talk about the guys who are missing. Let’s talk about the ones that led the Penguins to a 3-1 on Monday at Scotiabank Place.
Dustin Jeffrey stepped in and chipped in a goal and an assist in his second appearance in 10 games. Jarome Iginla scored for a third consecutive game and Tyler Kennedy continued his domination of the Senators with his tally, giving him goals in nine of his 20 career games played against Ottawa. Brenden Morrow continued to be red-hot with two assists.
The Penguins penalty killers had to report for duty a lot in this game, which turned out to be very chippy and penalty-filled. They came up big, thwarting five of six Senators man-advantages.
“This is one week or whatever it is until playoffs and we want to go in with good habits and keep trying to get better and honestly, just keep winning,” Iginla said. “Winning is fun, right? (Laughs) Whatever the two points mean in the standings, it’s fun winning and playing well as a group and finding a way. We’re getting great goaltending, there’s no question. Guys are playing hard. Our PK was very good tonight, too.”
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma made history on Monday night when he became the fastest coach in NHL history to reach 200 wins (316 games). Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau held the previous mark after earning his 200th win in his 326th game.
“I will,” Bylsma said when asked if he’ll remember this one. “When you look at career numbers for coaches, I’m not sure where 200 ranks. I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to some of the other good coaches, but certainly happy to have gotten it. And I got the puck.”More on Bylsma's achievement here
Vokoun became the 28th goalie in NHL history to reach 300 career victories with the win over the Senators. He also became just the 24th goalie to appear in 700 career games on Monday in Ottawa.
“Obviously it’s pretty special being able to stay in the league for such a long time,” Vokoun said. “It’s not easy, that’s for sure. It’s a nice milestone. For me, getting it out of the way this year was nice. You kind of follow your stats a little bit, and you never know what’s going to happen. Being able to get to 700 games and 300 wins, it’s nice. I’m pretty proud of that.”
With Fleury back in Pittsburgh with his wife Veronique, Vokoun started his second consecutive game and produced a second consecutive marvelous performance. He had to be sharp early and ended up making 34 saves, including clutch ones on the penalty kill. Eric Hartzell, who signed with the Penguins a day after playing in the Frozen Four championship game, served as his backup.
“This was a hard-fought game,” Vokoun said. “It’s nice to win and get the 300th win and travel home happy. That’s why you play the game.”
Brenden Morrow to Jarome Iginla for the goal.
A few weeks after Pittsburgh acquired those two players at the trade deadline, it still felt surreal typing that on Monday night while covering the Penguins game. Andit is still awesome watching the two of them celebrate together in the black and gold uniforms of the Penguins.
It just speaks to the staggering depth of this team general manager Ray Shero built that even with all the stars that are out, the Penguins still have a pair of former longtime captains in their lineup that are playing so strong right now and bringing leadership on and off the ice.
Morrow’s two assists gives him 11 points (5G-6A) in his last eight games – and his third multiple-point effort in his last four contests. He and Iginla connected for a beautiful sequence in the first period. Morrow pulled a pass from Jeffrey off the boards behind the net and whipped it across to Iginla at the far post – who directed it into the net before goalie Craig Anderson could react.
Iginla now has goals in three straight games and eight points (4G-4A) in his last nine games. Monday’s goal was his first at even strength (the rest had come on the power play).
DJ TURN IT UP
Prior to Monday’s contest in Ottawa, Jeffrey had skated in just one of the past 10 games. But although he hasn’t been a regular in the lineup this last month or so, Jeffrey has been the consummate professional and has maintained a positive attitude – saying he’s doing everything he can to be ready to contribute when he gets the chance.
And boy, did he ever tonight.
Jeffrey opened the game’s scoring with his third of the season 6:15 minutes into the first period; then followed that up by assisting on Iginla’s goal to help the Penguins to an early 2-0 lead. Jeffrey, who centered Morrow and Pascal Dupuis, also dominated on faceoffs – going 9-3 (75 percent).
Jeffrey took a high stick to the face with about four-and-a-half minutes left in the second period and went to the locker room to get tended to by trainers. Fortunately, he returned for the start of the third and finished with 14:49 minutes of ice time.
“That was a good way to start the game from him and he absolutely made some great plays,” Bylsma said. “Was good in the faceoff circle, had to use him on the left dot a lot in the game because of the way he was there. I thought he played a really good game and buried his chance there. Also got in on the forecheck, which was a big play for us. I thought he played very well tonight with his chance.”
The Senators are a potential first-round matchup for the Penguins. If tonight is any indication, a playoff series between the two teams could get very chippy.
This game, the first one between the teams since Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson suffered a lacerated achilles tendon in a collision with Matt Cooke back in February, was filled with penalties and post-whistle scraps and skirmishes. The teams combined for 22 penalties and 58 total minutes. The Senators had six actual power plays to the Penguins’ five.
The Penguins performed very well on the penalty kill, going 5-for-6.
They maintained possession for long stretches and worked it in the offensive zone. The Penguins had active sticks and got into passing and shooting lanes, and used their bodies to block shots at the right times. Douglas Murray beasted it on the PK, leading the team with 4:55 shorthanded minutes. And when pucks did get through to Vokoun, he made the needed saves..
Author: Michelle Crechiolo