OTTAWA (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins went into Ottawa with a chance to take over first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference Saturday night, but it was not in the cards.
The Penguins made too many defensive mistakes and the Senators capitalized – doubling up the Penguins 8-4.
Ottawa led 6-4 after two periods of play, but blew the game wide open in the third after the Penguins cut into the lead.
Just under 12 minutes into the period, Arron Asham threaded a pass from behind the net through sticks and skates to Sidney Crosby in the slot. His quick wrist shot beat Craig Anderson to pull Pittsburgh within one at 6-5. It was Crosby’s first goal since returning to the lineup for a second time this season.
About two minutes later the Penguins got trapped while pressing for the equalizing goal. Jason Spezza was left all alone in the neutral zone and beat Brad Thiessen on a breakaway to put Ottawa back in front by two goals.
Daniel Alfredsson and Colin Greening added late third period goals to put the game out of reach and hand the Penguins their first regulation loss since Feb. 19.
Milan Michalek opened the scoring in the first period. Filip Kuba’s blast from the point was deflected in front by Greening, but Thiessen made the save with the left pad. However, Michalek was right there for the rebound and easily deposited it in the net to put Ottawa up 1-0.
Just 40 seconds later, Matt Cooke took an aerial pass from Deryk Engelland and beat Ben Bishop with a shot off the rush to tie the game 1-1.
The puck barely found its way through Bishop’s equipment and Crosby made sure the puck was over the line. Crosby may have touched the puck before it fully crossed the line, but a scoring change has not been made yet.
Later in the period, Cooke struck again to give the Penguins their only lead of the contest. Crosby flew into the zone and backed off a defenseman with a spin-o-rama move. After the move, he fed a backhand pass across the crease to Cooke, who chipped it behind Bishop to put Pittsburgh up 2-1.
The Penguins held that lead for the rest of the period, but Sergei Gonchar evened it up just 33 seconds into the second period.
Chris Phillips and Kyle Turris scored goals 36 seconds apart to put Ottawa up 4-2 before Tyler Kennedy scored on a 2-on-1 break with Steve Sullivan.
Alfredsson capped the scoring in the period with a shorthanded goal with about 4 minutes to play.
The night featured mistake after mistake for the Penguins and the Senators took full advantage. Pittsburgh still outshot the Senators 40-28 in the game, but Thiessen got little to no help from most of his teammates in the game.
Thiessen took the full brunt of the Senators’ attack and allowed all eight goals.
Bishop left the game in the second period with an apparent leg injury after making a save at the left post. He allowed three goals on 20 shots.
Anderson came off the bench in relief of his injured counterpart and allowed one goal on 20 shots.
To make matters worse, the New York Rangers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs to open up a three-point lead over the Penguins in the race for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference crowns.
The good news for the Penguins is that they won’t have much time to dwell on this loss as they return home to take on the New Jersey Devils Sunday at 7 p.m.
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