Pittsburgh scored 25 goals in five games, starting with Sidney Crosby’s return from a concussion on March 15. By contrast the Ottawa Senators had just two goals in three games going into this contest. This certainly looked like a mismatch on paper, and it was, but not in the way you might have assumed. The Ottawa Senators, no doubt inspired by the opera version of O Canada that preceded the game dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 8-4 victory Saturday.
Daniel Alfredsson led the charge for Ottawa with two goals and two assists to bring him up to 54 points in 70 games. Like many of the Senators’ players, he had struggled lately with just three points in his previous 12 contests.
Milan Michalek netted his 33rd goal of the season to open up the scoring at 9:06 of the first period. Matt Cooke followed it up with two unanswered goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had a 2-1 lead going into the second period. Sergei Gonchar evened the game just 33 seconds into the second period and from there, the Senators never looked back.
If there was a silver lining in this game for Pittsburgh, it was that Crosby scored his first goal since returning from a concussion. He also added another assist, giving him 23 points in 14 games this season.
Pittsburgh has been fantastic lately, but they’re still battling with the New York Rangers for the Atlantic Division title and the first seed. At the same time, the Philadelphia Flyers are still threatening to surpass the Penguins, so Pittsburgh could realistically finish with the first, fourth, or fifth spot in the Eastern Conference depending on how they do in the final two weeks of the season.
Meanwhile, Ottawa needed this win to maintain some breathing distance on the ninth seed Washington Capitals. They can help their cause further and potentially deal a lethal blow to the Winnipeg Jets fading playoff ambitions if they win in Winnipeg on Monday.
Didn’t take long for Alex Burmistrov to make his presence felt — though not in a good way.
Burmistrov, playing in his first game for the Jets after a two-year stint in Russia, delivered a questionable elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron late in the first period of Thursday’s season-opener:
Burmistrov received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head, while Bergeron received a matching minor for roughing (retaliating for the elbow, specifically).
The Bruins went into the intermission leading 1-0, and have yet to update Bergeron’s status.
Update: Bergeron stayed in the game, but B’s head coach Claude Julien was none too pleased with the hit. Following the game, he called for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to look at it…
Coaches are quickly getting the hang of this challenge thing.
Following Mike Babcock’s successful challenge in Toronto’s opening-night loss to Montreal on Wednesday, Babcock’s provincial rival — Sens head coach Dave Cameron — got it right as well, successfully reversing Evander Kane‘s would-be equalizer in the third period.
From the league:
At 10:34 of the third period in the Senators/Sabres game, Ottawa requested a Coach’s Challenge to review whether Buffalo was off-side prior to Evander Kane’s goal.
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Linesman determined that Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons was off-side prior to the goal. According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Linesman, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that one or more Players on the attacking team preceded the puck into the attacking zone prior to the goal being scored and that, as a result, the play should have been stopped for an “Off-side” infraction; where this standard is met, the goal will be disallowed.”
Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Buffalo Sabres.
The clock is re-set to show 9:32 (10:28 elapsed time), when the off-side infraction occurred.
As the league later noted, this was the first coach’s challenge under the offside scenario.