It can happen to any team, no matter how talented, no matter how successful. Sometimes, a game just slips away.
Last night’s match up in Ottawa looked like a messy chase scene, with the Penguins being forced to stare at the Senators’ backs for three periods while they skated away with a 3-1 win.
The Pens had a record of 2-0 against the Senators going into last night; so clearly, they knew what they had needed to do.
“Last time we played them it was a really tight game,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury told the media before the game. “It was close from start to finish. That’s something we can expect from them. They’re a very solid team. Guys will show up and play hard all night. We have to be really focused for them.”
Focused they were not.
Ottawa scored two goals in the first period, which seemed to catch the Pens off guard. A third goal 20 seconds into period two was their undoing. This did not feel like the 2010-11 Pittsburgh team. They were out of sync, and struggled to control the puck and generate chances. Anytime they did get the puck to the net, Senators goalie Brian Elliott was there to make the important saves.
The Pens answered this difficult situation with aggression. After 60 minutes, a total of 18 penalties had been handed out between the two teams, 10 of which were served by Penguins. Right-winger Eric Godard and defenseman Deryk Engelland were hungry for fights. The Senators did their best to resist – why fight when you’re already in control of the game? Only defenseman Matt Carkner accepted a challenge from Godard. He prevailed, giving Godard a swollen eye and the Senators plenty of momentum.
Fortunately, Pens’ captain Sidney Crosby was able to extend his point streak to 24 games with a goal in the third. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get Pittsburgh back in the game. The final two minutes, with Fleury on the bench, were a case of “too little, too late.”
The Pens suddenly found their groove, but did not have a wide enough window through which they could score the two goals needed to force overtime.
“I’m surprised. We’ve been playing really well. It’s part of the game. You have to bounce back,” defenseman Kris Letang told Michelle Crechiolo of the official Pens website.
He’s right; it is part of the game. Even the NHL’s current number one team will have a bad night. It’s normal.
In true Penguin fashion, they will learn from their mistakes and move on.
Besides, we already have our sights set on that Winter Classic.