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Sill, Jeffrey Lead Way to 5-3 Victory Over Senators

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
LONDON, ONTARIO – The Penguins began their 2010 rookie tournament on the right foot as they used a three-goal second period to pave the way to a 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario.

Forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Zach Sill each scored twice and goaltender Brad Thiessen stopped 23 of 26 shots to lead the way. The Penguins also received a goal from Keven Veilleux.

“The guys really started the game with a lot of excitement and nervous energy,” said Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, who is coaching the Penguins this weekend. “I thought we played very well. It’s great to start any tournament with a win – especially the way we played, which was structured and with a lot of passion and energy.”

Pittsburgh actually fell behind, 1-0, when Ottawa’s Bobby Butler scored the first of his two goals midway through the first period.

Sill drew the Penguins even, 1-1, late in the first period before a three goals in a 5:32 minute span during the second period – tallied by Jeffrey, Veilleux and Sill again – allowed the Penguins to jump in front 4-1 after 40 minutes.

Ottawa managed to make things interesting when Butler and Eric Gryba scored in the final frame to get the Senators within 4-3. Jeffrey ended that threat by scoring an empty-net goal with 16 seconds remaining to close out the scoring and ensure the win.

“We didn’t come up here to lose hockey games,” Jeffrey said. “We came up here with a goal in mind. We said in our meeting the other day that as an organization we try to win everything we put our mind to. We made a trip up here to win.”

“We are building towards something here,” Brian Strait added. “The organization is about winning. You have to start that right out of the get-go. It’s a learning process learning how to hold onto leads and win. There is never a better time to start than right now. These are important games for everybody to learn how to get it done.”

Sill, Linemates Star

Penguins forward Zach Sill is known more for his grittiness and physical play than his hands, but he came up big on Saturday by scoring twice for Pittsburgh against the Senators.

Sill tallied the Penguins opening goal at 15:41 of the opening period when he took a cross-ice pass from Ryan Schnell on a two-on-one and buried a shot through the legs of Senators netminder Robin Lehner. Sill added a second tally in the middle period when he converted the rebound of an Eric Tangradi shot off the rush.

“The first one was right off of a faceoff play,” Sill described. “It kind of went just like it is drawn up on the board. It went just as planned. Schnell made a great play over to me and I just kind of threw it on net and it found a hole.”

As an energy guy who scored five times and registered 11 points in 54 games last season as a rookie with WBS, Sill was pleased to begin this season on such a high note.

“It feels good to get a couple of goals,” Sill said. “It probably took me about 20 games to get a couple of goals last year. It’s nice definitely.”

Sill’s linemates, Ryan Schnell and Geoff Walker, also figured prominently into the Penguins’ win.

Both players picked up assists while Schnell had a pretty impressive second-period fight with Ottawa’s Tim Spencer.

“Those guys played excellent together,” Hynes said. “That’s what Zach does. He is an energy guy. Walker and Schell played well. It’s nice when that type of a line can execute and get a couple goals for you. When that happens, you know you are going to be in good shape.”

Grant Update

Penguins defenseman Alex Grant had to be removed from the ice on a stretcher, and was taken by paramedics to a local hospital following a nasty hit-from-behind he suffered courtesy of the Senators David Dziurzynski just 2:22 minutes into the first period.

Grant was making a play on the puck in the near corner of the Pittsburgh defensive zone when Dziurzynski drilled him into the boards from behind.

Dziurzynski was assessed a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct.

The Penguins will update Grant’s status on Sunday.

Defensemen, Penalty Killers Step Up

Grant’s injury meant the Penguins had to play the final 57:22 minutes with just five defensemen – Strait, Simon Despres, Carl Sneep, Reid McNeill and Joe Rogalski.

Hynes said each one stepped up to the plate and delivered in an adverse situation, especially Strait and Despres, the two most experienced defenders left standing. Both players were out on the ice during the final minute as the Penguins protected a one-goal lead over the Sens.

“It was a gutsy effort by our defensemen because Alex got hurt on the third shift of the game and we only had five defensemen,” Hynes said. “We did rely on our veteran guys with Strait and Despres. I thought Sneep stepped up pretty well. We had two young guys in McNeill and Rogalski who played well.”

“There was a lot of ice time available to the defensemen,” Strait said. “Going into your first game of the season you don’t expect to play that much. We wanted to roll with six D and get guys back into the flow, but that was the hand we were dealt.”

Part of the defensemen playing well included a stellar effort on the penalty kill. Pittsburgh was shorthanded seven times on the afternoon, but surrendered just one goal to the Senators. The Penguins even picked up a shorthanded tally when Jeffrey gave them a lead they wouldn’t surrender at 13:40 of the second period.

“It wasn’t the prettiest penalty kill out there, but our PK and their power play was both trying to get up to speed,” Strait said. “It’s easier to play on the penalty kill than the power play when you haven’t played together because you are going off emotion and trying to be aggressive. That’s what we did. We got pucks out and were able to kill a couple off. It helped us get the win.”

Scoring Summary

OTT, Bobby Butler (1),  8:53, 1st period
PIT, Zach Sill (1), 15:41, 1st period
PIT, Dustin Jeffrey (1) (SH), 6:20 2nd period
PIT, Keven Veilleux (1), 8:55, 2nd period
PIT, Zach Sill (2), 11:52, 2nd period
OTT, Bobby Butler (2) (PP), 10:30, 3rd period
OTT, Eric Gryba (1), 18:23, 3rd period
PIT, Dustin Jeffrey (2) (EN), 19:44, 3rd period

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