Spezza lifts Senators to SO win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Penguins are ready for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Ottawa Senators aren’t headed to the postseason, but captain Jason Spezza wanted to make sure his team finished the season strong.
Spezza scored in the shootout to help the Senators beat the Penguins 3-2 on Sunday night and stretch their season-ending winning streak to five games.
”We wanted to play for each other,” said Spezza, who finished his first season as captain. ”We talked about it a lot down the stretch, how it would be easy to let up, and I thought the group showed good character by finishing hard and winning these games.”
The teams were tied 2-2 after two periods and didn’t score in the third or overtime.
Spezza, who scored the lone goal in Ottawa’s win Saturday against Toronto, stopped at the circle during his shootout attempt, stickhandled around goalie Jeff Zatkoff, and scored. Kyle Turris added a goal in the shootout for the Senators.
Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner stopped Beau Bennett and Jussi Jokinen to seal the win.
Turris scored his 26th goal in regulation, and Mark Stone had his fourth for Ottawa, which will miss the playoffs for the second time in six years and first since 2011.
”We believe in this group, that it’s a good group and very close to being a good team,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said. ”We have work to do and we have to come to training camp in September prepared to do the work and make changes to our game that’s going to make us successful.”
Jokinen scored on the power play in regulation, his 21st of the season, and Lee Stempniak added his 12th for the Penguins, who rested captain Sidney Crosby and several others for their final game before the playoffs.
No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury also sat out along with Brandon Sutter, Matt Niskanen, Robert Bortuzzo and Deryk Engelland.
”I think we’ve gone through quite a bit with this group in terms of different lineups, different injury situations,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of his team, which led the NHL with 521 man-games lost. ”I think we’ve done a better job of being able to shut teams down and limit opportunities, but now we have to do that in the playoffs.”
The Penguins will face Columbus in the first round of the playoffs. The series begins Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
It will be the first postseason meeting between the teams, separated by a four-hour drive. The perennial-contending Penguins have lots of star power and three Stanley Cup titles. Columbus, during its first season in the Eastern Conference, secured its second playoff berth and first since the 2009 season.
”They’re skilled, they have great goaltending and they played fast,” Penguins’ forward James Neal said. ”We had a good year against them. They’re going to come hard. It’s the playoffs and everyone has a chance now.”
Despite missing the finale, Crosby won his second scoring title – topping Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf.
Crosby, who finished with 36 goals and 104 points, outscored Getzlaf by 17 points to win the Art Ross Trophy for the first time since the 2006-07 season, his second in the NHL.
The seven-year gap is the second-longest span between scoring titles.
”Sid, I think, to get over 100 points … to have the lead as he does over Getzlaf by that many points is pretty amazing to see,” Bylsma said.
Pittsburgh hopes to have former NHL MVP and two-time scoring champion Evgeni Malkin back for the playoffs after he missed the final 11 games of the regular season because of a foot injury.
Malkin skated with teammates Chris Conner (foot) and Joe Vitale (upper body) on Sunday, but Bylsma didn’t say whether they would be ready for Wednesday’s playoff opener.
”I like the way we’re getting healthy and I like the way we’re playing,” Neal said. ”This year is a little different than others. We’re playing good hockey at the right time and that’s big for us.”
Jokinen opened the scoring Sunday with a power-play goal with 5:14 left in the first period. His centering pass deflected off Eric Gryba’s skate and trickled between Lehner’s pads.
Turris tied it later in the period, scoring in the final seconds of a power play when he sent a shot past Zatkoff from the left faceoff dot.
Stempniak put the Penguins ahead 2-1 when he tipped Bennett’s shot behind Lehner at 5:16 of the second.
Stone tied it with Ottawa’s second power-play goal at 17:14 from the top of the crease, whacking in a rebound of Patrick Wiercioch’s point shot.
NOTES: The Penguins played their fourth straight overtime game. … Pittsburgh finished the season with 109 points, the second-highest total in team history. A Penguins player has won the scoring title in 15 of the last 26 seasons. … Crosby and Malkin are the fourth set of teammates to win multiple scoring titles while playing together and the first since Boston’s Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr between 1969-75. … Ottawa scratched Jared Cowen, Matt Kassian and Mika Zibanejad.