Senators roll without Karlsson

Penguins forward Joe Vitale fights for the puck with Senators forward Milan Michalek at the COREL...

Penguins forward Joe Vitale fights for the puck with Senators forward Milan Michalek at the COREL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn., Jan. 10, 2012. (JASON COHN/Reuters)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:38 AM ET

PITTSBURGH - No Erik Karlsson, no problem.

With their top defenceman out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, the Senators rolled over the Penguins with a solid 5-1 victory Tuesday night at the Consol Energy Center.

Winger Colin Greening had three assists, while Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Nick Foligno all had two-point efforts. Goaltender Craig Anderson made 29 stops as the Senators won their sixth in seven games.

Karlsson, 21, the NHL’s top-scoring blueliner with 41 points in 43 games, took part in the pre-game skate in the morning and the whole warmup, but was scratched when the rosters were submitted at game-time.

Coach Paul MacLean said the injury was something Karlsson suffered in his preparations for the game, but he should be fine to play Thursday against the Rangers in New York.

“It was just precautionary,” said MacLean. “We just made sure we did things the right way and we’re expecting him to be fine for the New York Rangers. Nothing really surprises me, it was just something he tweaked.”

Anderson said the Senators reacted well to not having Karlsson in the lineup.

“I knew the guys would rally around that and have a big game,” said Anderson. “(Karlsson’s) a big part of our team and a big part of our offence.

“He’s been in there day in and day out for us. It’s unfortunate we didn’t have him, but I think the guys responded picking it up and we found a way to have one of our best games.”

Wingers Chris Neil and Bobby Butler also chipped in with goals as the Senators handed the injury-riddled Penguins their fifth straight loss. The Senators are now 9-1-2 in their last 12 games.

Even without the likes of injured stars Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, the Penguins are still a tough team to play against.

MacLean said he was happy with the effort.

“I was really pleased we won the game. I thought the third was our best period,” said MacLean. “We didn’t play very well in the second period.

“We basically defended the whole period. We were really pleased with the way we brought the game home in the third playing with the lead.”

Anderson, who wasn’t tested a whole lot, is 6-0-1 in his last seven starts and is showing consistency.

Michalek’s second of the game at 12:36 of the third snuffed out any chance of a possible comeback by the Penguins.

Ahead 4-1 after 40 minutes, the Senators made the most of their opportunities and chased goalie Brent Johnson in the process. Evgeni Malkin was able to beat Anderson as the Senators remain the only team in the NHL without a shutout.

Greening said it was nice to play with a lead.

“The last 10 games, we’ve had a lot of overtimes and shootouts,” said Greening. “It was actually kind of fun to play with the lead and to learn how to play with the lead. This is something we can take into our next couple of games.”

It looked like this was going to be a total blowout early in the second when the Senators pulled out to a 4-0 lead. Michalek scored his 21st of the season when a pass from Spezza bounced off his skate and by Marc-Andre Fleury.

That was the first shot he faced after taking over for Johnson. The officials went upstairs to take a second look at the goal, but after review it was ruled that Michalek didn’t intentionally redirect the puck with his blade.

Though Johnson had an impressive 8-2-1 record against the Senators going into the game, he was pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots. The back-breaker was a pretty goal by Spezza only 15 seconds into the second.

Behind the goal line, Spezza was able to push the puck out front with Johnson out of the net and backhand it home to give the Senators a 3-0 lead. It was the kind of goal you’re going to see on the highlights for years.

Spezza said it was a big win.

“We were opportunistic by capitalizing on our chances,” said Spezza. “We came in after two periods and we played a really good third period, confident with the lead. We got a chance to compose ourselves and I was really happy with how we played in the third.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch


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