The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 4, 2014

Neal’s OT goal pushes Penguins past Senators

PITTSBURGH — James Neal scored at 3:05 of overtime, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on Monday night.

Neal netted his 18th of the season and scored his first goal in nine games for the Penguins, who won for the 16th time in 17 home games and are now 23-4 at Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh also avoided back-to-back regulation losses for the first time since dropping three straight in early November.

Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson stopped Robert Bortuzzo from the slot in overtime, but the rebound popped out to Neal, who dragged the puck around a Senators’ defender before dumping a shot past an out-of-position Anderson and into an empty net.

Ottawa’s Stephane Da Costa and Pittsburgh’s Brian Gibbons scored in the first period.

Ottawa’s best chance to take the lead in regulation came midway through the third period, but Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury robbed former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson with a sparkling glove save.

Fleury, while pushing from post to post, reached high above the cross bar, snagging the fluttering wrist shot from Karlsson, who had a partially wide open net to shoot at.

Fleury stopped 24 shots for his league-leading 30th win of the season, while Anderson turned aside 46 shots for the hard-luck loss.

Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL with 75 points, was held without a point and hasn’t scored a goal in five games, his longest drought since a seven-game slump earlier this season.

The Penguins, who lead the Eastern Conference with 80 points, went 6-3-1 their previous 10 games, looking dominant during impressive wins against Montreal and Los Angeles but struggling in losses against Edmonton, Florida, Dallas, and Phoenix, all teams out of playoff contention.

The Senators handed the Penguins arguably their worst loss of the season Dec. 23 in Ottawa, shutting them out 5-0 in a physical contest that saw Pittsburgh forward Pascal Dupuis tear his anterior cruciate ligament on a hit from Marc Methot.

Ottawa, in the mix for an Eastern Conference wild-card spot, allowed three goals in the final 5:58 during a 6-3 loss at Toronto on Saturday, the second time in four games the Senators allowed six goals.

Ottawa broke through at 5:56 of the first period, Da Costa scoring his third of the season after he lifted a short-side wrist shot over Fleury’s shoulder from the top of the crease.

Ottawa’s Zack Smith took a boarding call 29 seconds later and the league’s top power-play unit capitalized with the man advantage winding down, tying the game after Gibbons tipped Olli Maatta’s shot from the point past Anderson.

The Penguins outshot the Senators 14-4 and nearly cashed in on several quality opportunities. But Anderson and the Senators held firm, keeping the game knotted at 1 entering the third.

NOTES: Penguins D Kris Letang, who leads the team defensively with 10 goals, missed his third straight game with an undisclosed illness. . Penguins’ F Taylor Pyatt left with a lower body injury after the game’s first shift. . Pittsburgh is 14-1 at home when it registers at least one power-play goal. The Penguins’ penalty kill is perfect in a season-high nine straight home games dating back to Dec. 19. . Ottawa concludes a three-game road trip Tuesday at St. Louis, while Pittsburgh visits Buffalo on Wednesday. . Ottawa D Chris Phillips missed his fourth straight game with a lower body injury, while Matt Kassian and Joe Corvo also sat out for the Senators. Forwards Andrew Ebbett and Jayson Megna were healthy scratches for Pittsburgh.

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