Tyler Kennedy led the Penguins with two goals, including the game winner in overtime, as Pittsburgh defeated the Ottawa Senators in Stockholm, Sweden.
The anxious feeling that has crippled hockey fans for the past three months finally vanished this afternoon. After receiving word that Petr Sykora was a late scratch due to a groin problem and Janne Pesonen had been shipped back to the AHL, the Penguins were finally ready to embark on their journey for redemption.
After 10 minutes of national anthems, super-Swede Mats Sundin came out onto the ice to drop the puck for the opening face-off. Sundin appeared hesitant as he held the puck, saluting the native crowd, but everyone knew he was trying to make up his mind about exactly where he should drop the puck. A little more to the right? No, no, left seems like a better option.
Finally, the game got underway, with Sidney Crosby winning the opening face-off. After a stoppage in play, the Penguins' second unit hit the ice. Tyler Kennedy was moved up to the second line due to Sykora's absence, and did not disappoint in this game.
40 seconds into the contest Kennedy lit a fire under his skates, took a pass from Jordan Staal, circled the net, and let go what has become his patented turnaround shot. The shot trickled under the arm of Gerber to give the Pens an early 1-0 advantage.
After the Kennedy goal, the two teams methodically felt each other out for the next five minutes or so. The Penguins went on the power play, which was probably the worst thing that could have happened.
After a Senator shot the puck over the glass in his own zone, the Pens got a five-on-three opportunity. The Sens killed the five-on-three and immediately the momentum swung in their favor.
Sean Donovan, who was the Senators' only productive player in the playoffs last postseason, reminded Penguin fans why they hate him when he redirected a Dean McAmmond shot past Fleury to even the score at one apiece.
The first period drug on, with each team struggling to mount any offense on the choppy ice surface. The Pens were 0-5 on the power play during the first period. Back in Pittsburgh, Sergei Gonchar was probably hurling cheetos at the TV screen from his sofa.
Brooks Orpik jobbed Dany Heatley early in the second period, giving the Sens a power play. The Penguins' power play had failed to provide anything remotely resembling offensive production thus far in the game, so Evgeni Malkin decided it was time to Get Shorty.
Malkin scooped up a loose puck on a Senators' dump-in attempt and took off down the ice. Malkin waited as long as he possibly could before dekeing Gerber, but Gino went to the backhand and was able to slip the puck by on the short side. 2-1 Pens.
New Penguins' enforcer, Eric Godard hit the ice and starting mixing it up with the Sens' fourth-liners. He challenged Chris Neil to drop the gloves, but Neil thought otherwise and tucked tail and ran. Godard ended up taking a penalty, giving the Sens a power play.
Dany Heatley put on a goal-scoring exhibition, as he took a loose puck in the slot, flipped it to the forehand, and rocketed a wrist shot past Fleury to even the score at two.
How the Penguins justify Jeff Taffe making the team over Janne Pesonen could wind up on the next episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Taffe turned the puck over at the blue line on the power play, and Jason Spezza took the liberty of beating Fleury shorthanded to give the Sens a 3-2 lead.
Last season the Penguins were the most prolific goal-scoring team in the league in the third period. Judging by today's events, this season will be no different.
Crosby made his first legitimate offensive play of the game at 3:55 of the third, when he sailed a crisp pass to Rob Scuderi in the high slot. Scuderi released the shot and was probably the most surprised player on the ice when the puck ended up in the back of the net. The third goal of Scuderi's NHL career evened the score at three.
During the last minute of regulation, Fleury attempted to snatch a puck out of mid-air. Flower thought the puck was in his glove, but quickly realized that it was on the ice, trickling toward the net. Fleury made a good heads-up play to prevent the puck from crossing the line. The game was headed for overtime.
Staal and Crosby both had good scoring chances in overtime, but Gerber was sharp and kept the puck out of the net.
With under a minute to play, Spezza beat three Penguin players in the neutral zone, but then ran into Tyler Kennedy. Kennedy picked his pocket like he was walking down Main Street and took off down the wing.
You could tell that TK had no intentions of passing the puck. He gained the blue line, released a quick wrist shot from just above the left circle, and beat Gerber top shelf to earn the victory for the Pens.
Final Score: Pens 4, Sens 3
Malkin and Kennedy look like they belong together. Jordan Staal is still too slow to keep up with Gino in the open ice.
The Pens were zero for seven on the power play—not a good sign for a Gonchar-less lineup that will likely last the duration of the season.
Antoine Vermette shadowed Sidney Crosby in the offensive zone for the entire second period. It's surprising that more teams don't implement this type of defensive strategy against Crosby—but then again, most teams don't have a shut-down forward of Vermette's caliber.
Alfredsson-Spezza-Heatley is still the best line in hockey.
Martin Gerber will not be the Sens' starting goalie in another three months. Mark that down.
The Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the other game in Prague today. No word on whether or not David Koci destroyed another shoulder during the game.
The Pens and Sens will meet again tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 PM (Pittsburgh time).
Full recap at Experiencing the Evolution.