The Pittsburgh Penguins played a mostly dominant final 39 minutes of hockey on Sunday night against the Ottawa Senators.
Of course, the problem is that NHL games are 60 minutes long and the Pens fell behind 3-0 before showing a pulse.
To blame Marc-Andre Fleury would be foolish because he never saw the three pucks that got behind him.
Ottawa’s first goal could be considered a fluke. Erik Karlsson fired a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that Paul Martin got a piece of. From the replays, it appeared that Martin’s deflection was going well over the net, but it clipped Mike Fisher and dropped in behind Fleury.
On a delayed penalty call, Karlsson unloaded a bomb from the center point position that rang off the post and in.
From Fleury’s vantage point, he probably only saw Karlsson’s stick in the air and then heard the ringing metal. How that puck got through the crowd in front is beyond me, but it happens.
Karlsson struck again just seconds into the second period with another slap shot from the blue line through a crowd. What could have been a momentum changing penalty kill, turned into the dagger by Ottawa.
After the third goal, the Penguins woke up and started to get a bunch of chances against Brian Elliott.
In the second period alone, the Penguins outshot the Senators 22-6, but Elliott stopped them all.
The Pens tacked on 17 more shots in the third and were only able to get one puck behind Elliott. Ok, fine. Sidney Crosby didn’t technically shoot the puck into the net. Instead, a rebound off his shot bounced off Matt Carkner’s leg and barely trickled over the line. Either way, the goal was his 30th of the season and extended his point streak to 24 games.
I’ll fully admit I almost fell asleep watching the Sens clog up the neutral zone and play a trap that the New Jersey Devils would be envious of. It got to the point where you knew the game was over and you just wanted to see Crosby continue his point streak. Which would be worse, seeing his streak end in a shutout loss, or having the Pens erupt for 6-plus goals and him not figure in?
Anyway, getting into the zone was the problem for the Penguins. Once they got possession in the offensive zone, they controlled the play. Elliott came up with several key stops, including a glove save while shorthanded right after giving up Pittsburgh’s lone goal.
It would also be easy to just pin this game on the refs. Granted, there were some questionable calls against the Pens last night and some obvious infractions by the Senators that went unpunished, but you can’t just blame the refs and move on.
The Penguins came out flat in the opening period and Ottawa jumped on them. Passes weren’t crisp and no one was driving the net. Aside from the two third period meltdowns against Boston and the Rangers, the first period against Ottawa might have been the worst period of hockey this team has played this season.
However, Ottawa’s win did come with a hefty price tag. Jason Spezza is going to be out for several weeks with what the team is calling a shoulder injury. The injury was suffered after a hit by Kris Letang in the second period.
In real time, the hit looks questionable. However, after watching it multiple times from different angles in slow motion (here’s one angle), Spezza actually initiates the contact while trying to protect the puck.
Letang does extend his arms to shove him after Spezza throws his weight into him. However, he did not bury him into the boards from behind like he could have.
There’s a clear difference between the Letang hit and the one Alex Ovechkin dropped on Brian Campbell last season.
Hopefully the team plays like they did for the final two periods against Ottawa for 60 minutes against the Atlanta Thrashers Tuesday night.
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