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January 22, 2019
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Heatley Halts Pens



The Ottawa Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Sunday, escaping Sweden with three of a possible four points. Dany Heatley bagged a pair of power-play goals, and Alex Auld lost his shutout bid with just two seconds left in regulation.

This game was uglier than homemade shoes. The ice was terrible. If the NHL is going to force two of its premier squads to go play overseas, they should at least ensure the ice conditions are playable.

There really werenít any scoring chances of note until Heatley cashed in on the power play at 13:07 of the middle frame. Daniel Alfredsson started the play on the left wing boards, dumping the puck low to Jason Spezza along the goal line. Spezza wasted little time in jamming the puck to the front of the cage, looking to connect with Heatley at the right post. Hal Gill dropped to try and disrupt the play, and I believe the biscuit bounced off the behemoth blueliner, because it ended up catching Marc-Andre Fleury low on the left pad.

Heatley pounced on the rebound, but the Flower went down in the splits to make the save. Undaunted, Heatley got a second crack and managed to stuff it under Fleury for the 1-0 lead.

Heatley rang up another power-play marker at 12:17 of the third to make it 2-0. The Pens were caught in a change, and Filip Kuba did a swell job throwing the puck cross ice to Alfredsson on left wing. Alf then set the table for Heatley charging the high slot. In a move reminiscent of Kid Crosby, Heatley dropped to one-knee and hammered a one-timer into the twine. It was a bomb. Fleury had no chance.

Antoine Vermette removed all doubt a little over three minutes later, streaking behind Kris Letang and getting luckier than Ryan Reynolds to beat Fleury for the 3-0 lead. Vermette completely fanned on his shot, fooling Fleury with his uncanny incompetence. Vermette then speared the puck under Fleuryís left pad as he skated by the net. Beauty, eh.

Pittsburgh prevented the shutout with an Alex Goligoski power-play goal at 19:58. And give the Pens credit; they worked right to the final horn. Kid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were relentless, with Crosby pounding Vermette and Malkin digging along the back wall to free the puck. Crosby found Goligoski alone in the high slot, and the rookie rearguard one-timed a snapper over Auldís glove.


IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCES Ė OTTAWA

Dany Heatley: Yeah, heís gonna get 50 again. Book it.

Jason Spezza: He was still flying. I gotta get me some of what heís taking. On second thought, maybe not.

Jason Smith: Played his usual gritty game. Heís a nice addition.

Filip Kuba: Had two assists and led all Senators with 24:53 in ice time.

Alex Auld: While hardly tested, he still finished with 30 saves. And he stopped everything he should have, which is more than can be said for Martin Gerber in game one.


IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCES Ė PITTSBURGH

Kid Crosby: Yeah, he wasnít dominant, and he only has two helpers to show for his time in Sweden, but thereís plenty to like about Sid in the early going. First, he fired six more shots on goal, giving him 11 on the young season. Thatís the stuff right there.

Second, he led all skaters with 26:31 in ice time. Thatís what Iím talking about. He played 24:53 on Saturday. If he keeps getting those minutes, scary stuff will happen. Scary stuff.

Alex Goligoski: The kid got his first start of the year in place of Darryl Sydor and acquitted himself nicely, playing 21:26 and spoiling the shutout with his first career goal. And even though the power play continued to struggle, he looked strong out there on the left point.

But seriously, whatís it going to take to get Michel Therrien to use Letang on the left point? It drives me nuts. Someone give Therrien tapes of Phil Housley and Freddy Olausson from the old Winnipeg days so he can understand how to use a right-handed shot on the power play. Please. Iím begginí you.

Evgeni Malkin: Geno was putting on a show. He made more than a few awe-inspiring rushes, including one where he juggled the puck about five times on his blade through center.


POWER PLAY PROBLEMS
Losing Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney would cripple any power play, but the Pens went 1-for-14 with the man-advantage in Sweden, and the one goal was a completely meaningless tally in the waning seconds of game two.

In the opener, both Crosby and Malkin saw time at the point. Iím fine with Malkin at the point, because heís got the hammer, but Sid is wasted out there.

In game two, Letang and Goligoski manned the points on the first unit, with Eaton and Orpik on the second team. The first squad usually had Kid Crosby and Malkin with either Fedotenko, Satan, or Kennedy.

Iíll reserve judgment until the club gets stateside and has some good ice, but rest assured, the situation will be addressed in the coming days.

The bad ice didnít seem to hinder the Senators, though. They cashed in twice on four chances Sunday. The top unit features the Spezza line with Kuba and Picard at the points.

The Pens just need to (all together now) shoot the puck.


REFS HATE GODARD
Eric Godard got the fuzzy end of the lollipop all weekend. In game one, Pittsburghís new pugilist got whistled for a ticky-tack call against a yella Chris Neil, and Heatley ended up scoring on the subsequent power play.

In game two, Jason Smith, who was a key figure in many heated Pens-Flyers games, started taking liberties with Kid Crosby. Godard went right after Smith, confronting him during play and settling his ass down. Godard actually stayed behind the play and read Smith the riot act as they slowly skated up ice.

Obviously, Smith wanted no part of Godard, so he quietly went about his business, but the message was sent. Later on the same shift, Godard actually got the puck on right wing and fired a shot on Auld. The puck stayed in the zone and eventually got frozen at the cage.

Godard, surrounded by Senators, was the lone Penguin in front, so Smith took the opportunity to get brave. A huge scrum ensued, and when the dust settled, Godard had four minutes for roughing while Neil got the lone Ottawa penalty. And, like in game one, Heatley took advantage of Godardís bad luck, cashing in on the power play.

Just another example of The Man keepiní us down.

Iím sure people will be all over Godard for taking two costly penalties, but, well, those people are idiots. He didnít do anything wrong. He was doing his job. Itís nice to see the Penguins finally have an enforcer.

Listen, Georges Laraque is a great guy and a fine citizen, but heís garbage as an enforcer. Sure, heís a great fighter, but he doesnít like fighting. He has no concept of what it means to be an enforcer. Laraque never would have confronted Neil or Smith. Godard knows his role. And the Penguins will be a better team because of it.


TIT FOR TIT
With about three minutes to go in the third, Alfredsson blasted Max Talbot with a clean hit at center. Talbot had his head down and paid the price.

Craig Hartsburg was foolish enough to put Alfredsson back out in the final minute, and Matt Cooke evened the score, stepping into the Senator captain with a picture-perfect shoulder check. Clean or not, Chris Phillips didnít like it and roughed up Cooke, taking the penalty that eventually cost Auld his shutout.

Orange whips all around. Alfredsson belted Talbot clean. Cooke crushed Alfredsson clean to get him back for Talbot. And Phillips smacked Cooke around to stand up for Alfredsson. Itís the circle of life. Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips.


OTTAWAíS GOT WORRY
Yeah, the Sens got three points, but they could be in for a long season. Alex Picard and Brian Lee are brutal. Unless they find a legitimate third pair of defensemen, the Sens will run Phillips, Volchenkov, Smith, and Kuba into the ground. One injury to the top four, and the Sens are screwed.

There is no scoring whatsoever beyond the top line. Sure, Vermette should get 20 or so, and Mike Fisher was out of the lineup, but thatís it. Theyíre going to have to split Spezza, Heatley, and Alfredsson eventually. Iíd start them all on different lines and only reunite them for power plays and desperation comebacks.

And if Alex Auld is your No. 1 netmidner, youíve got worry.


LINES

OTTAWA

Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson
Winchester-Vermette-Kelly
Ruutu-Foligno-Neil
Schubert-McAmmond-Donovan

Phillips-Volchenkov
Kuba-Smith
Picard-Lee


PITTSBURGH

Satan-Crosby-Fedotenko (Satan got a shift or two with Malkin)
Staal-Malkin-Kennedy
Dupuis-Talbot-Cooke
Bissonnette-Thomas-Godard

Letang-Orpik
Gill-Scuderi
Eaton-Goligoski





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