PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins had the game in full control for 47 minutes. And in that control, they almost let one slip away as the Ottawa Senators scored a pair of goals in the final seven minutes but a late goal by Jake Guentzel secured the suddenly close game. The Penguins were able to coast to a 5-3 win over Ottawa at the PPG Paints Arena.
Guentzel (25, 26) and Bryan Rust (13, 14) each had a pair of goals for the Penguins which played without Evgeni Malkin due to an upper-body injury and welcomed two new players acquired in the trade for Derick Brassard, midday Friday: Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.
“They both played really good games under difficult circumstances,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. The pair arrived only minutes before game time and needed a police escort from the airport to make it before the opening puck drop. “They’re excited to be Pittsburgh Penguins.”
The Penguins had just 17 skaters for warmups. It was a unique situation not encountered by many including a few seasoned reporters and Penguins staff.
“(The mood) was light. Guys were focused but guys knew the situation. It’s definitely something that’s a little bit unique,” said Rust through a smirk.
Teddy Blueger also lit the lamp. Blueger was called up Tuesday. Wednesday, his line scored just four minutes into the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Friday, just four minutes into the game Blueger and Matt Cullen were one step ahead of the Ottawa breakout. Cullen and Blueger created a couple of turnovers before Blueger (1) finished the sequence by snapping a shot top shelf over Ottawa goalie Anders Nilsson.
It was Blueger’s first career goal in his second career NHL game.
“He’s a really smart player. He’s a really smart player. I thought he had a great game tonight–a real 200-foot game,” said Sullivan.
The Penguins worked low in the Ottawa zone for much of the first period. That labor bore fruit late in the first period. With about two minutes remaining in the opening set, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang kept the puck along the wall. Crosby darted from the midwall and zipped one of his famous backhand passes across the slot to the waiting Guentzel (25) who one-timed it past Nilsson.
The Penguins new arrivals, Bjugstad and McCann arrived only minutes before game time. Arena employees told Pittsburgh Hockey Now the pair arrived around 6:50 pm. for the 7 p.m. faceoff.
They missed warmups but acquitted themselves well in the first period. In the absence of injured Evgeni Malkin, Bjugstad centered the Penguins second line. In the middle of the second period, he earned his first point as a Penguin when laid a cross-ice pass on Phil Kessel’s tape in the left wing circle. Kessel whiffed on the one-timer but quickly regrouped.
Kessel recovered the loose puck and fed an uncovered Bryan Rust. Rust (13) didn’t whiff.
Rust scored again in the third period when he was again left uncovered in the circle. Kessel (again) zipped a cross-ice pass to Rust who (again) roofed it over Nilsson for a 4-1 Penguins lead.
Ottawa did break the Penguins string of unanswered goals later in the second period. The other new guy Jared McCann took a slashing penalty and Ottawa winger Bobby Ryan (12) quickly converted the power play.
Mikkel Boedker (6) scored a power-play goal with seven minutes remaining and Matt Duchene (21) converted on his second breakaway chance a few minutes later. Ottawa made it 4-3 but with three minutes remaining, Guentzel ended the festivities with one-timer.