Penguins win on Neal’s OT goal
PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins admit they have not been playing with great intensity in recent weeks as they have comfortable leads atop both the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division standings.
While the Penguins have gone 7-3-1 in their last 11 games, the losses have been against the Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes, who were a combined 90-100-2 going into Monday’s action.
The Penguins played with playoff-like intensity Monday night, though, as winger James Neal scored 1:55 into overtime to lift Pittsburgh to a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
“We need to be more comfortable in a one-goal game and that’s where we were all night long,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “We played with intensity through the first two periods, carried it right through the third and then went the extra minute to win. That’s the way we need to be - focused.”
Neal knocked in a rebound of a shot by defenseman Robert Bortuzzo over sprawled Senators goaltender Craig Anderson. The goal was Neal’s 18th of the season, and it improved the Penguins’ record to 39-15-2.
Neal had not scored in the previous eight games.
“I was just trying to get the puck on the net and hit the net more,” Neal said. “When you don’t score you sometimes try to pick corners and be a little too cute with it. It’s something maybe I’ve done in the past few games, but I was able to find one tonight. It was a good feeling.”
The Penguins improved to 7-2 in overtime, while the Senators (24-21-11) dropped to 5-11.
“I thought we had a lot of guys play real well,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said. “We did a lot of good stuff out there. The competition level was good until you get to overtime against (Pittsburgh), then things can go wrong in a hurry and they did.”
Anderson and Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were both strong in net. Anderson made 46 saves, and Fleury stopped 24 shots.
Fleury executed the most difficult save when he gloved Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson’s shot from point-blank rage midway through the third period to preserve a 1-1 tie.
“It was an amazing save,” Bylsma said. “Not only his ability to get across (the crease) to get to an open cage, but he had to go up there and get the puck with glove.”
Karlsson could only shake his head.
“I can’t really do anything else but tip my hat and say ‘good job,'” he said. “I thought it was a clear shot and an open net. Unfortunately, I‘m going to be on the highlights for quite a time with that one.”
The Penguins finished with 24 or fewer shots in three of their four previous games. They doubled that total in winning for the 16th time in their last 17 games at Consol Energy Center and raising their home record to 23-4.
Senators center Stephane Da Costa opened the scoring at 14:05 of the first period when he made a twirling move through the Penguins defense toward the net and beat Fleury high to the short side with a wrist shot. It was Da Costa’s third goal.
Two minutes and 18 seconds later, Penguins center Brian Gibbons tied it with his third goal. He deflected defenseman Olli Maatta’s slap shot, and the puck knuckled under Anderson’s pads.
The Penguins outshot the Senators in every period -- 13-8 in the first, 16-8 in the second, 15-9 in the third and 4-0 in overtime.
The Senators have been outshot by an average margin of 7.4 shots in their last eight games.
NOTES: Penguins LW Tyler Pyatt suffered a lower-body injury in the game’s first minute and did not return. ... Penguins D Kris Letang missed his third straight game because of illness and underwent tests Monday afternoon in an attempt to pinpoint the problem. ... Penguins rookie D Olli Maatta was in the lineup two days after being hit in the face with a puck and leaving Pittsburgh’s previous game on Saturday, a loss at Phoenix. ... Penguins C Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL in scoring with 75 points, failed to score a goal in his fifth straight game, his longest drought since going seven games without one from Oct. 26-Nov. 9. The Penguins won for just the third time in 13 games this season in which Crosby did not record a point. ... Senators D Chris Phillips (lower body) missed his fourth straight game and will also sit out Tuesday night’s game at St. Louis against the Blues. However, there is a chance he could return Thursday when Ottawa hosts the Buffalo Sabres.