With the offseason additions of Phil Kessel and others, the Pittsburgh Penguins were supposed to be an offensive juggernaut this season. Having failed at that task through the first three games, the Pens won their first of the season on Thursday night with some good, old-fashioned defense, shutting out the Ottawa Senators 2-0.
The Penguins defense was aided by an offensive attack that outshot the Senators 36-22 and kept the puck in the Ottawa end of the rink for large stretches of time. Despite the Pens time of possession dominance, the game was scoreless after one period and still very much up for grabs.
That’s when the Penguins used some timely offense to break through. Evgeni Malkin broke the ice with his first goal of the season. Patric Hornqvist did the yeoman’s work along the boards in his own zone and found Malkin up the right wing with an outlet pass. Malkin skated in on a 2-on-2 alongside David Perron, but took the shot himself to beat Craig Anderson just 23 seconds into the middle frame.
Just over two minutes later, Penguins rookie Daniel Sprong pushed the Pens advantage with his first NHL goal. Sprong took a beautiful cross-ice feed from Matt Cullen and waited for Anderson to make his move before deftly roofing the puck over the Ottawa goaltender.
Kevin Porter earned the second assist on the goal. It was the first point with the Penguins for all three players. Sprong’s first goal came in just his fourth NHL game, and the first time he was given significant minutes, as he stepped up to the third line to fill in for injured winger Beau Bennett. His 13:07 of ice time was almost five minutes over his season average through three games.
In addition to Sprong moving up, the Penguins changed around some other parts of their lineup, as well. Bobby Farnham dressed and played on the fourth line instead of Sergei Plotnikov, who was scratched for the first time. Farnham was a physical presence on the forecheck and was a willing participant in a losing effort in his third-period scrap with Mark Borowiecki.
Bryan Rust, just called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, also earned a sweater for the first time this season. Rust played 7:33 and contributed two shots and a hit.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who led the NHL with 10 shutouts in 2014-15, recorded his first of the 2015-16, stopping all 22 Ottawa shots.
On defense, Adam Clendening made his Penguins debut in the place of veteran Rob Scuderi, who was scratched for the first time in 127 regular season games. Clendening was partnered with Olli Maatta and saw 13:16 of ice time. He was a plus-1, but committed two minor penalties that left his team shorthanded.
The Pens PK unit was up to the task again, killing off all three Ottawa chances. The Pens have killed eight of their last nine penalties after giving up two power play goals to the Dallas Stars in the season opener.
On the power play, the Pens were again punchless, falling to 0-for-12 on the season, including a two-man advantage in the third period.
The Pens will continue their five-game home stand when the host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
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