Penguins hold off Senators
PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby scored, and the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins held off the Ottawa Senators 6-4 on Thursday night.
Jake Guentzel’s team-best 21st goal of the season was a much-needed empty-netter, as Pittsburgh nearly blew a four-goal lead in the third period.
“It was one of those games where we lacked the attention to detail that our team is normally accustomed to playing with,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “When you play that way, you give up more chances and spend more time in your end. Fortunately, we found a way to win.”
Mike Matheson scored twice, Dominik Simon also had a goal and Tristan Jarry stopped 39 shots for the Penguins, who have won three straight and 14 of 16. Pittsburgh has won 10 in a row at home against Ottawa and has points in 13 consecutive home games versus the Senators dating to Feb. 13, 2013.
Drake Batherson extended a four-game point streak with Ottawa’s lone goal in the first two periods, and the Senators trailed 5-1 entering the third. But they scored the next three goals, trimming the deficit to one.
Filip Gustavsson made 23 saves for Ottawa. Anton Forsberg stopped six shots in the first period before he was pulled.
Tim Stutzle scored his sixth goal at 1:45 of the third and Josh Norris followed, cutting it to 5-3. Jarry stopped Alex Formenton with a pad save on a penalty shot, but Norris scored his second of the game and 18th of the season at 8:02 to make it 5-4.
Guentzel effectively ended it for Pittsburgh. In his last 22 games, he has been held off the scoresheet just once dating to Nov. 13.
“Those first two periods, we were playing the way we wanted to play,” Senators captain Brady Tkachuk said. “Of course, the score didn’t show it. Nobody likes losing, but there are a lot of things to be happy about with our game.”
Crosby and Malkin played together in Pittsburgh for the first time since last season’s playoff series against the New York Islanders. They scored in the same game for the first time since March 15, a 4-1 home win against Boston.
Malkin, a four-time All-Star and 2012 Hart Trophy winner, made his season debut on Pittsburgh’s recent six-game road trip. Malkin, who missed the Penguins’ first 34 games after undergoing right knee surgery in June, played his first game in Pittsburgh since May 24.
Malkin helped Pittsburgh build its early lead, and Matheson’s two goals bookended Crosby’s power-play marker as the Penguins opened what appeared to be a comfortable advantage through two periods.
“All throughout the game we were pretty sloppy,” Matheson said. “That’s a tough way to play, and teams are really good in transition. If you’re giving them those opportunities, it’s tough to defend well.”
Penguins D Kris Letang established a career-best nine-game point streak with a secondary assist on Crosby’s goal.
Letang, who owns the longest active point streak in the NHL, has two goals and 12 assists during his nine-game run. Among defensemen in team history, only Paul Coffey and Randy Carlyle have a longer point streak.
Letang’s 31 assists rank among the NHL leaders. Letang, who is two games from 900, has 30-plus assists for the ninth time in his career, tied for third-most among active blueliners.
MURRAY BACK IN PITTSBURGH
Senators goaltender Matt Murray returned to Pittsburgh for the first time since he was traded to Ottawa on Oct. 7, 2020, but didn’t dress because of a non-COVID-19 related illness.
Murray, who played for the Penguins from 2015-20, backstopped Pittsburgh to back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017, becoming the first goaltender in NHL history to win two Stanley Cups as a rookie.
Murray’s 117 regular-season wins and 29 playoff wins both rank third in Penguins history.
The Penguins honored Murray with a video tribute and he tapped his heart from the press box and waved to fans, who gave him a standing ovation.
PLAYING THE FIFTH
This was Ottawa’s fifth game in 2022 because of COVID-19 postponements. The Senators have had 10 games postponed since Dec. 19.
The Senators hosted their first game since Dec. 11 on Tuesday, a 3-1 loss to Buffalo. Ottawa beat Calgary and Edmonton in a pair of road games last week.
The Senators had four wins in their first 20 games, including a 6-3 home romp against Pittsburgh on Nov. 13. They have seven wins in their last 13 games since Dec. 1. Ottawa has allowed more than two goals just twice in its last seven games.
Senators: Continue a three-game road trip Saturday at Washington.
Penguins: Will visit Columbus on Friday before a six-game homestand.