The Pens dropped their fifth straight decision in a 5-1 defeat to the Ottawa Senators at CONSOL Energy Center on Tuesday.
And although the Pens are feeling like they’ve hit rock bottom, they know this isn't the end. They know they can dig deeper and pull themselves out of the slump they’re in.
“We have to get better. We know we do,” forward Matt Cooke
said. “We each know individually and as a whole that we have more. We proved it last year and we need to prove it to ourselves.”
“When you lose that many in a row it’s tough, but you’ve got to find a way to battle back,” forward James Neal
added. “Get back to where we were as a hockey team.”
The Pens outshot the Senators 30-23, but Ottawa’s first line proved to be too much for Pittsburgh to handle as the trio of Colin Greening, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek (brother of Pens defenseman Zbynek Michalek
) combined for seven points.
Milan Michalek scored twice, Spezza added a goal and an assist and Greening earned three helpers. They were named the game’s Three Stars, in that order.
The Pens will get right back at it Wednesday when they face Washington at the Verizon Center. The 10th-place Capitals are just two points behind eighth-place Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference standings.
And although that game will kick off what’s going to be an absolutely crucial road trip for the team (Florida on Friday, Tampa Bay on Sunday), all Pittsburgh can do at this point is take it one day at a time.
“We have a game tomorrow against Washington. It doesn’t go any further than that,” Cooke said.
Although the Pens received a break on the injury front with forward James Neal
(more on that below), their luck ran out early in Tuesday’s game.
After defenseman Paul Martin
was scratched for the contest due to illness, his replacement, Simon Despres
, left the game halfway through the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return.
Head coach Dan Bylsma had no update after the game, saying Despres would need “further evaluation at this point.”
On the play, Despres and Kaspars Daugavins were racing for a puck in the Pens defensive zone when the Senators forward knocked the Penguins defenseman to the ground. Despres fell awkwardly and skated gingerly to the bench, going straight down the runway to the locker room.
Despres skated exactly three minutes in the game, meaning the Penguins had to rotate five defensemen (Brooks Orpik
, Deryk Engelland
, Zbynek Michalek
and Matt Niskanen
) for most of the game.
Despres, 20, played 13 games with Pittsburgh during his first NHL stint earlier this season, scoring one goal, three assists, four points and a plus-4 rating while averaging 15:27 minutes per game. He played in 25 AHL games this season for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, scoring three goals, four assists and seven points. Last week, Despres was chosen to represent the Eastern Conference in the AHL All-Star Classic Jan. 29-30 in Atlantic City, N.J.
It was originally believed that Neal would be sidelined for “weeks, not days” with a broken foot suffered blocking a shot late in the third period on Jan. 7 against New Jersey.
But after further evaluation, it was determined the injury was actually a bone bruise and Neal, who was deemed able to play as pain permits, was in the lineup against the Senators.
Neal wore a protective plastic covering over his right skate. And although he was definitely playing through pain, Neal wasn’t hampered by his injury – saying after the game he felt fine, even adding, “I’ve got to play better.”
He finished with four hits and two shots through 16:41 minutes played.
Forward Arron Asham
made his return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury suffered blocking a shot Dec. 31 vs. New Jersey. The Pens also had Craig Adams
in the lineup, who did not practice Monday after reaggravating a previous injury during Sunday’s skate.
The Pens announced an attendance of 18,603 fans for the team’s 230th straight sellout. During their 230-game sellout streak, which began Feb. 14, 2007, the team has had over four million fans walk through the gates.
scored the Pens’ only goal to extend his streak of success vs. conference rival Ottawa.
Malkin has now scored at least one goal in eight of his last nine games against the Senators. He has 10 goals during that stretch, including a hat trick on Dec. 23, 2009 at Mellon Arena.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo