Missing eight players, including seven in the COVID protocol, the Ottawa (4-9-1) Senators survived an early Pittsburgh Penguins (5-4-4) push and a furious late comeback attempt. Evan Rodrigues scored a pair of third period goals.
The Penguins scored three goals in the final eight minutes, including the pair by Rodrigues, but Ottawa scored the first five goals.
Ottawa beat the Penguins 5-3 at the Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday night. The Penguins second line scored twice in the back half of the third period after Ottawa claimed a 5-0 lead, but it was too little too late.
“Yeah, that was a big part of the game–that five-on-three early. We’re not able to convert there and just a couple of opportunities out of it,” Reirden said. “On one, we missed the net. One we got a shot right off the faceoff, but not nearly enough.”
Ottawa killed three Penguins power plays and buried their chances in the second period. Ottawa cracked the Penguins top-ranked penalty kill twice and put four second-period goals past Casey DeSmith.
Despite the Penguins furious comeback, the second period was too much to overcome.
The Penguins played without Sidney Crosby, Marcus Pettersson, and Chad Ruhwedel. All cleared COVID protocol per U.S. regulations, but not the 14-day Canadian regs, and thus were unavailable.
However, Ottawa has seven players in the protocol, including former Penguins goalie Matt Murray. Instead, former Penguins draft pick, Filip Gustavsson, whom the Penguins traded to Ottawa in the Derick Brassard deal, started for Ottawa.
The woeful Penguins’ power play again sputtered in the first period. Despite 98 seconds of a 5v3, the first period was scoreless. The Penguins got only one shot on goal during the two-man advantage. Early in their one-man advantage which preceded the 5v3, Jeff Carter was able to get a point-blank chance on the rush.
The Penguins 0-ffer on two chances put their power play percentage below 10% this season. After five misses on Saturday, the Penguins power play sank to 9.3% (4-44).
Jason Zucker had an even-strength breakaway, too. However, Ottawa’s starting goalie–former Pittsburgh Penguins prospect–Filip Gustavsson made the saves.
The opening period was not packed full of chances and shots, but it was an uptempo, “almost” sort of period. The Penguins outshot Ottawa 7-6.
The Penguins squandered another power play early in the second period. While it appeared Jeff Carter sneaked one past Filip Gustavsson, it hit the crossbar but did not cross the goal line.
Ottawa gained momentum from the penalty kill and peppered Casey DeSmith with a few shots, culminating in Zach Sanford (2) beating DeSmith from the left-wing circle for a 1-0 lead.
The turn opened the floodgates.
Ottawa scored two more, quickly.
After controlling play for several minutes, Ottawa scored again midway through the period. From the point, Michael Del Zotto (1) scored his first goal of the season when his wrist shot glided through traffic and DeSmith didn’t get it. 2-0.
Just 27 seconds later, Parker Kelly scored a similar goal past a screen.
In the blink of an eye, the Pittsburgh Penguins trailed 3-0. DeSmith allowed four or more goals in six of his previous eight starts, dating back to last season. Acting coach Todd Reirden called a timeout, but Ottawa continued to attack the Penguins through the remainder of the second period.
Ottawa got 14 shots on net and attempted 17 more which didn’t get there.
Midway through the third period, Drake Batherson (6) put too much space between Ottawa and the Penguins when he netted Ottawa’s fifth goal. Tyler Ennis beat the Penguins to an icing call and fed Batherson who was ahead of defenseman John Marino. Batherson (6) swept across the crease
Ottawa relaxed after claiming a 5-0 lead and the Pittsburgh Penguins scored a pair of quick goals shortly afterward.
Kasperi Kapanen (4) ripped one past Gustavsson with about eight minutes left in the game. Then Evan Rodrigues beat Gustavsson from the left-wing circle just 56 seconds later.
Evan Rodrigues scored again three minutes later to make it interesting, but Batherson (7) scored an empty netter to close it out.
Batherson had a four-point game (2-2-4).
DeSmith stopped 18 of 23 shots. Gustavsson stopped 27 of 30.