Sens' offensive explosion saves Auld
Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency
|Pittsburgh Penguins' Brooks Orpik (L) battles with Ottawa Senators' Kaspars Daugavins during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Ottawa December 16, 2011. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)
OTTAWA - Senators fans had purchased tickets in anticipation of seeing The Crosby Show.
Instead, with the injured Sidney Crosby out of the Penguins’ lineup, they got to see command performances from their own Jason Spezza and Jared Cowen.
Spezza and Cowen had four-point efforts, while Erik Karlsson and Daniel Alfredsson added three points apiece to lead the Senators to a 6-4 win over Pittsburgh in front of 19,710 fans Friday night at Scotiabank Place.
Colin Greening and Zenon Konopka also scored and Alex Auld made 32 saves to halt a personal 10-game winless skid dating back to last season when he was with the Canadiens.
Auld said coach Paul MacLean only told him Friday morning he was starting.
“It’s taken a few games to get it and it’s probably the time between games that has made it seem longer,” said Auld. “It feels great to finally get a ‘W.’ It was definitely a crazy second period, but it was nice to have that kind of run support.”
Senators winger Nick Foligno was kneed — for the second straight game — and had to be helped off the ice in the third period. This time, it’s Pittsburgh’s Simon Despres who could be facing a suspension.
Even without injured stars Crosby, Kris Letang and Jordan Staal, the Penguins were tough customers. Evgeni Malkin, Steve Sullivan, Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen scored for Pittsburgh.
It’s only the sixth time the Senators have scored at least five goals and they did it without Milan Michalek.
The victory couldn’t have come at a better time for Ottawa. This was the first time the Senators have beaten the Penguins with Johnson in net since Nov. 4, 2008. He came into the game with an 8-1-1 lifetime record vs. Ottawa.
Despite the impressive record, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma couldn’t take any more of Johnson after he gave up five goals on eight shots in the second period. Starter Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for the third.
It was easily Cowen’s best performance in the NHL.
“He had four points? I better get him out more,” said MacLean.
“We just had to get our chances to go and they obviously did,” said Cowen. “We’ve been doing the same thing the last couple of games, we just haven’t been getting the puck luck around the net. We finally did.”
Spezza wasn’t impressed with Ottawa’s compete level.
“We showed resolve. You don’t want to fall into the habit of not being able to hold leads,” said Spezza. “We squandered, but we got it back and then we did a much better job in the third period.
“We had time to take a breath in between periods and talk about what we wanted to do. I thought we did a much better job in the third, minimizing their chances.”
MacLean silenced critics of using Konopka on the power play. The gritty forward gave the club a two-goal lead to close out the second period by winning the faceoff and then tipping a shot by Karlsson shot past Johnson with 5.7 seconds left in the frame.
The assist was Karlsson’s 100th career point.
The Senators also caught a break on the go-ahead goal by Cowen, his fourth of the season. His attempted pass into the slot bounced off Brooks Orpik’s left skate and beat Johnson on the stick side at 13:20.
The Senators don’t play again until Tuesday, when they host the Sabres.