Pens continue slide in loss to Ottawa
The Penguins and Ottawa Senators entered Saturday night’s game at Mellon Arena on opposite ends of the scoring spectrum.
And the Penguins didn’t do much to lessen the gap between them as the Senators had a decisive edge in the offensive zone.
On the strength of forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Marian Hossa, who scored twice each, the Senators improved to 20-14-4 with a 5-2 victory and showed why they lead the Eastern Conference in goals scored and the NHL in goals scored per game.
The Penguins, who played in front of their ninth home sellout crowd, entered the game needing an offensive lift as the fourth-lowest scoring team in the league. They didn’t get one. Their goals came on a rookie’s first NHL shot and the team’s third short-handed goal of the season.
Ottawa opened the scoring when Todd White corralled a pass from Petr Schastlivy along the boards and hit Daniel Alfredsson in the right circle from behind the net.
Alfredsson, Ottawa’s leading scorer, one-timed the puck toward the left post and past Penguins goaltender Johan Hedberg at 7:07 of the first period.
Trailing early in a game wasn’t a new experience for the Penguins (14-17-5-2), as they’ve only scored the first goal of a game in 13 of 38 contests this season. The Penguins entered the game in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and didn’t do much to help their quest for a playoff spot. They are 1-6-2 in their past nine games.
The Penguins did get a spark from rookie winger Tom Kostopoulos, who joined the team Saturday morning after being called up from the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre on Friday to replace a struggling Milan Kraft.
It didn’t take long for Kostopoulos, who led the Wilkes-Barre Penguins in scoring with 26 points, to prove that he can score in the NHL. Just 25 seconds after Ottawa took the lead, Kostopoulos answered.
Penguins center Wayne Primeau, stationed behind the goal, bounced a pass off the side of the net to a closing Kostopoulos, who didn’t waste a second in wristing his first shot in the NHL over the left shoulder of Ottawa goaltender Patrick Lalime to tie the game, 1-1.
Before making his NHL debut, Kostopoulos said he considered himself a grinder.
“I’m not a pretty goal-scorer,” he said. “If anything does happen, I’m sure it will be ugly.”
But Kostopoulos will be able to remember his first goal with Penguins as anything but unattractive.
With time winding down in the first period, Ottawa took the lead for good as it gained possession in the Penguins’ end. On an almost-exact replay of their first goal, the Senators found an open player heading to the net. This time, center Mike Fisher fed Hossa for a one-timer.
Hossa added his second goal of the game three minutes into the second period on a power play. The Penguins had killed half of a four-minute high sticking penalty on Primeau, but Hossa scored when he threw a pass toward the net that caromed off Penguins defenseman Josef Melichar into the net for a 3-1 lead.
A few minutes later Hedberg made four of his 25 saves in a shooting gallery barrage by the Senators during a power play. Hedberg stopped four long blasts and finally held on to the last one.
Dan Lacouture scored a short-handed goal on a beautiful individual effort. Janne Laukkanen bounced a pass off the boards and Lacouture won the race to the puck in Ottawa’s zone, cut to the middle of the ice and scored through the five-hole on Lalime while being dragged to the ice.
But the Penguins’ bid at a comeback victory they so desperately needed disappeared early in the third period.
Hossa stripped Alexei Kovalev just past the Penguins’ blue line early in the third and drew two defenders, leaving Radek Bonk wide open on the left side. Hossa backhanded a pass to Bonk, who faked a shot that fooled Hedberg and then scored from a bad angle to make the score 4-2.