Senators lose 3-1 in uninspiring effort against Pens
The Ottawa Senators were on the verge of clinching a playoff spot tonight, but failed to get any points against a depleted Penguins team.
There were three big stories coming into tonight's game:
- This was the first Penguins game in Ottawa since the Matt Cooke/Erik Karlsson incident;
- The Penguins would be missing Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Bennett, and Fleury; and
- A Senators win and a Jets regulation loss would clinch a playoff spot for the Sens.
Although these storylines suggested tonight could be one to remember, a flat performance from the boys in Ottawa meant it was a night to forget::
- Nothing really came of Matt Cooke's return outside of a Matt Cooke assist (he also drew two penalties);
- the Penguins didn't appear to be missing anyone, and got big performances from Morrow, Iginla, and Vokoun; and
- the Jets won while the Senators lost in regulation.
The Penguins scored the first two goals of the night and the Senators never looked poised for victory. On the first goal, the Senators missed the late man on the rush, Dustin Jeffrey, who received a feed from Brendan Morrow and snapped the puck past Anderson. The second goal was also created by Morrow, who sped around the net with the puck and shipped a sneaky feed on the far side to Iginla, causing Anderson to lose track of the puck and give Iggy an easy goal. The period ended with a Zack Smith fight with 7 seconds left in the period, giving Senators plenty of momentum for sitting in the dressing room eating the orange slices that Marc Methot's mom presumably gives the team at intermission.
The Senators started the second period on a powerplay and failed to score, which was something of a common occurrence during the game -- the Senators had 5 powerplays in the first two periods and failed to convert on any of them. The Senators outshot the Penguins 25 - 15 after the first two periods, but the shots rarely seemed to generate good scoring chances. The Senators, despite the importance of the game and the generous amount of scratches for the Pens, looked flat and out of sorts.
Ottawa finally got on the board midway through the second, as Daniel Alfredsson won a 4-on-4 faceoff and kicked the puck back to Gonchar using the outside of his skate blade, and Patrick Wiercioch one-timed the Gonchar feed. The Senators' penalty expired moments prior to the puck entering the net, so technically it was a rare Ottawa Senators powerplay goal.
Unfortunately, whatever goodwill Wiericoch built up on that goal was lost with a poorly played defensive effort on Matt Cooke late in the 3rd period, allowing Cooke to slide the puck over to Tyler Kennedy, who made it 3-1 and out of reach for the Senators.
The magic number entering the night for the Senators was four: two points gained by the Senators and two missed by the Jets would clinch it for the Senators. Instead, the Senators missed out on two points while the Jets got theirs, meaning the magic number remains four as Ottawa's playoff chances took another hit tonight. With just three games left for the Senators and two for the Jets, the Senators need to stop squandering their chances and lock down that playoff spot.
Sens Killer: Brendan Morrow
Morrow was the catalyst for both of the Penguins' goals tonight, making two sweet passes to prime areas in the Ottawa Senators zone. Sure, Anderson should have had the first one and he certainly lost track of the puck on the second, but Morrow put the game out of reach early and the Senators never really recovered.
Sens Killer: Tomas Vokoun
The Senators had 35 shots on Vokoun but only one goal, as Vokoun made a number of key saves for the Pens en route to his victory.