How would the Ottawa Senators follow up a seven-goal outburst on the road? The Pittsburgh Penguins were about to find out.
Starting on back-to-back nights, it was looking like Craig Anderson's workload would not deteriorate in the slightest. Pittsburgh wasn't looking like the team their record would show you. After starting 0-3-0, they looked to have found their game just in time.
A sweet feed from Mike Hoffman on a 2-on-1 gave Bobby Ryan the best chance of the period, but alas, Marc-Andre Fleury's shoulder got in the way of a 1-0 lead for the away team. After 20 minutes, the shots were 16-6 in favour of the Penguins.
The Senators' possession struggles were continuing.
In the second frame, an old habit found Ottawa down two goals. Their inexplicable desire to help the opposition out with their firsts was back for another round.
Coming into tonight's game, Evgeni Malkin hadn't scored a goal in 17 straight games, including playoffs. But 23 seconds into the period, Malkin was sprung on a break Patric Hornqvist and fired a snap shot under the arm of Anderson. The 29-year-old's slump was busted.
Malkin goal pic.twitter.com/xiQSOUcz1d— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 16, 2015
Then there was Daniel Sprong. The one without a goal in, well, ever. The Penguins crafted a quick rush end-to-end weaving past a befuddled Erik Karlsson, around a diving Chris Neil and finishing off with a shot that made it through Marc Methot and Anderson, who were both sliding across to simultaneously make a save.
Sprong goal pic.twitter.com/1v10WLQEor— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 16, 2015
Sprong was the beneficiary of that well-orchestrated break, getting himself open in the slot and able to cart his first career NHL goal.
Of course, the Senators were glad to have helped.
After the teams traded power plays - both with numerous chances, yet none ending up in the back of the net - Ottawa was down a pair heading into the intermission.
But by golly, they outshot the Pens 11-10 in the period, and that has to count for something. It's the little victories.
The Senators were into penalty trouble early in the third. While Karlsson was taken off for an iffy interference call, Mark Borowiecki fell victim to a horrible delay of game penalty. The replay would show the puck was clearly in the neutral zone as Borowiecki chipped it into the crowd.
Nonetheless, Ottawa was down two players. But Anderson came to the rescue.
On a beautiful passing play from the Penguins, with a spinarama backhand feed, Malkin set up Sidney Crosby by the side of the net with what looked to be a yawning cage. If not for the well placed pad of Anderson, Pittsburgh would be up 3-0 and the game would seem out of reach. Instead, the Senators killed it off and the deficit remained at two.
Ottawa's attack in the final minutes was relentless, but not good enough.
The Penguins escaped with their first win of the season, and the Senators' role of slump busters lives on.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
If the first five games are any foreshadowing of what is to come, Craig Anderson is in for a busy, busy season. But it looks like the 34-year-old will be up for the task. Sporting a .931 SV%, Anderson has been nothing less than phenomenal behind a team that has given up, by far, the most shots in the league. His year-by-year stats say he is due for a decline in play this season, but early on, we've only seen brilliance from Ottawa's No. 1 goaltender.
Sens Dishonourable Mention: The Cowen-Borowiecki Pairing
Again, I know. Maybe this dishonourable mention should start going to Dave Cameron for continuing to stick the two together, keeping Chris Wideman in the press box, but the head coach gave us Mike Hoffman on the first line, so he'll be exempt from this decision. But not for long. Cowen and Borowiecki were the two worst possession players for the second straight night, and have been by far the worst pairing. Yes, your third pairing should be your worst, but not this bad.
Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.