PENALTIES DOOM PENGUINS IN LOSS
WILKES-BARRE - There was an open-door policy Friday night at Wachovia Arena - the referees opened the penalty box door and the Pittsburgh Penguins went in it.
The Penguins rarely had five skaters on the ice all evening. They were whistled for nine infractions in the first period. The Ottawa Senators took advantage to post a 6-2 win in a preseason contest.
Seeming on the power play for the entire first period, the Senators (3-0) out shot the Penguins 16-2 and posted a 4-0 lead at the first intermission.
"When you get behind the 8-ball to a team that could legitimately win the Stanley Cup, it's very difficult. They have a lot of guys who are difference-makers and, when you take the penalties we did, you're asking for trouble," Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. "We played 14:30 of the first period short-handed. The majority of the calls were stick infractions that we've been talking about. Old habits are hard to break.
"I did a poor job before the game re-emphasizing the stick infractions. I take responsibility for us being down 4-0 in the first period," he continued. "I know it's an exhibition game, but I have to continue to emphasize to our players that if you get your stick parallel, you hook, you tug, you use your free hand - you end up in the box. Penalties are penalties."
One bright spot for the Penguins came in the second period when Sidney Crosby scored his first NHL preseason goal. He executed a give-and-go with Ryan Whitney and, off his own rebound, slammed the puck past Ray Emery.
Jeff Hereema started things off as he scored the first goal of the game with 7:27 left in the period. The puckled trickled through the defensemen and he blasted a shot past Jocelyn Thibault.
With 3:48 left in the period, Thibault appeared to be shaken up when a puck nailed him on the left shoulder. He skated around and returned to the net.
Only 36 seconds later, though, Brian Pothier gave the Senators a 2-0 edge with a power-play goal just off Thibault's glove.
Ottawa needed 11 more seconds to boost its lead to 3-0. During a scrum in front of Thibault, Anton Volchenkov poked the puck into the net with 3:01 remaining in the period.
Pothier scored his second power-play goal on the night when he sent a laser from the near blue line past Thibault for a 4-0 edge with 1:42 on the clock.
Hostilities boiled in the first period. Pittsburgh's Ryan VandenBussche and Ottawa's Brian McGrattan traded punches early in the period. VandenBussche got tripped up and dropped to a knee, but returned to his skates to continue the battle. Eventually, he was able to swipe off McGrattan's helmet with a facewash.
Immediately following Pothier's second goal, the Penguins' Matt Murley and the Senators' Greg Watson went at it. Both players exchanged a series of punches before Murley was wrestled to the ice.
The crowd was fired up, too. Referees skated off the ice at the end of the first period and onto the ice prior to the start of the second to a chorus of boos.
The Penguins sliced their deficit in half in the second period. Mario Lemieux nearly broke the shutout when he rung a shot off the post with 16:46 on the clock.
Crosby found the back of the net 8:34 later on a power play.
Ryan Malone's power-play goal cut Ottawa's lead to 4-2 with 3:55 on the clock. Lemieux zipped a crisp pass along the end line from the far side and Malone roofed the puck into the goal.
Ottawa had a good chance to score with 17:39 to play when Martin Havlat escaped for a breakaway, but Thibault made the save.
Denis Hamel gave the Senators a 5-2 lead with 10:58 left in the contest when he converted on a power play.
Bryan Smolinski ripped a one-timer past Thibault to boost Ottawa's advantage to 6-2 with 4:21 to play.
The Penguins hit three more posts in the third period. Sergei Gonchar fired a slapper off the pipes, Mark Recchi clanged the metal from up close and John LeClair's blistering mid-range shot hit nothing but post.
In the postgame shootout, Matt Murley gave the Penguins a 4-3 win. The shootout lasted 13 rounds before Murley buried the winner. Konstantin Koltsov, Gonchar and Recchi also scored for the Penguins.
It was the second time in two nights the teams met. Ottawa posted a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh on Friday in Binghamton, N.Y.
The Penguins travel to Hershey on Sunday at 5 p.m. to meet the Washington Capitals before they return to Pittsburgh on Monday.