PENGUINS BEAT SENATORS 4-2
James Neal (10) had two goals and assist and Sidney Crosby (6) had a goal and two assists, as the Pittsburgh Penguins (9-5-0, 18 pts) beat the injury depleted Ottawa Senators (7-5-2, 16 pts), 4-2 on Wednesday night, snapping a two game losing streak.
Pascal Dupuis (5) also scored in the win and Marc Andre Fleury made 27 saves to record his sixth win of the season.
Neal’s two markers give him 10 goals on the season which ranks 2nd in the NHL. Neal’s six power play goals is a league high.
Sidney Crosby continues to surge in the NHL points lead, moving into a tie for second place with Patrick Kane, 20 points. Thomas Vanek leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points. Crosby’s 14 assists are tied for the NHL lead with Marty St. Louis.
The Senators played without their three top players in Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and star defenseman Erik Karlsson who left the game in the second period after taking a Matt Cooke skate to his achilles tendon in what ended up being a serious injury. The news is awful for Karlsson who suffered a lacerated achilles tendon which will require surgery, a timetable of about four to six months.
The Senators feel it was a dirty hit and are expected to push for discipline from the league.
Cooke gets elevated to second line
In what ended up being a controversial game for Matt Cooke, the Penguins veteran winger became the sixth winger to skate on a line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, and he became the first of the six wingers to record a point with Malkin and Neal at even strength.
Following the first period, head coach Dan Bylsma scrapped the Zach Boychuk experiment as the second line left winger, moving Matt Cooke up to the second line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal put home the rebound.
Cooke gave the line some life, providing some grit and Cooke picked up the first point for a winger with Malkin and Neal, providing pressure behind the net, then deflecting a Deryk Engelland shot in front and James Neal.
Is Cooke the Penguins best internal option?
He is for now until we see whether Beau Bennett is actually NHL ready. During training camp, the talk was Bylsma regarded moving Cooke up to second line LW as a last resort as Bylsma has wanted a third line built around Cooke, Sutter and Kennedy.
Cooke provides the grit down low and front net presence the team wasn’t getting from Zach Boychuk.
“Might have been his best game, 5-on-5 of the season,” Bylsma said of Cooke. “Thought he played really well.”
Whether Cooke is available next game remains to be seen. Although there’s no sign Cooke used his skate on purpose, the Senators are going to push for action and with Cooke’s past reputation, this is an unpredictable National Hockey League.
The Penguins went 1 of 5 on the power play, scoring a power play goal in six straight games…..Paul Martin had two assists and three penalties in the game…..Joe Vitale was 8 of 10 in the faceoff circle……Sidney Crosby’s big night included a three point night, 400th career assist, and winning 16 draws, going 61.5% in the faceoff circle……The Penguins had 22 blocked shots. Matt Cooke, Brandon Sutter and Brooks Orpik all had a team-high 3 blocked shots…..On Evgeni Malkin bobblehead night, Malkin was pointless and 2 of 9 in the faceoff circle….
Updated: (10:30 p.m.)