(AP) – Sidney Crosby’s scoring outburst was key to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ elimination of the Ottawa Senators last spring. Facing the Senators for the first time since could mean another productive game from the superstar center.
Crosby looks to build on his best performance of the young season when the Penguins host Ottawa on Monday night.
Pittsburgh (3-3-0) knocked the Senators (1-3-1) out of the opening round of last season’s playoffs behind Crosby’s team-leading five goals and nine assists. The three-time All-Star had multiple points in the first five games of the series before he was held pointless in a 4-3 overtime win to clinch the series in Game 6.
Crosby and the Penguins have won three of four overall after dropping the first two games of the season at their new arena.
The captain is coming off a strong performance in Saturday’s 5-1 win at Philadelphia, tallying two power-play goals and one assist. He had one goal and two assists in the previous five contests.
“The way he skated and played, he probably could have gotten a couple more,” coach Dan Bylsma told the team’s official website.
With Crosby heating up, Pittsburgh is hoping to continue to get contributions from its power play. The unit is 5 for 25 over the last four games, including 2 for 8 Saturday. The Penguins’ converted 17.2 percent of their chances on the man advantage to rank eighth in the Eastern Conference last season.
“When we do get those chances, we have to make the most of them,” said Crosby, who has two goals and 11 assists in 17 regular-season meetings with Ottawa.
Backup Brent Johnson has been a big part of Pittsburgh’s recent success and might get a third consecutive start. He’s backstopped the Penguins to all three victories, posting a 1.32 goals-against average following a 29-save performance against the Flyers.
Marc-Andre Fleury has been in net for all three losses with a 3.41 GAA. He’s 2-4-1 with a 3.37 GAA in seven home starts against Ottawa, while Johnson is 6-1-1 with a 2.10 GAA and a shutout in 10 overall games – seven starts.
Fleury made all four starts against the Senators in 2009-10, as the clubs split the season series and two games in Pittsburgh.
Ottawa has started slowly and is coming off a 4-3 loss at Montreal on Saturday. The Senators squandered a two-goal lead midway through the second period and have yet to score more than three goals in a game.
“It’s just the small things right now,” said defenseman Erik Karlsson, who netted his first goal of the season Saturday. “I think we battled hard and we played good, it’s just that we’ve got to close the game off a little more there when we have a two-goal lead and play a little bit smarter.
“Overall, I think we’re on the right track here.”
Karlsson had one goal and five assists in the playoffs against the Penguins last season.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson is still searching for his first goal, but his four assists are a team high. The right wing had two assists against the Canadiens, and had two goals while setting up six others in last season’s playoffs.