By: Casey Johnston (@CaseyR82)
Last Game for the Penguins: Saturday, a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames. Pittsburgh never surrendered the lead after Pascal Dupuis scored midway through the first period. Harry Zolnierczyk netted his first as a Penguin a little over a minute later. Paul Byron made it a one-goal game at 6:58 of the second period. Sidney Crosby scored the Penguins’ third goal of the game when he skated around T.J. Brodie in the neutral zone and got a slap shot past Karri Ramo. Matt Niskanen gave Pittsburgh a three-goal lead with a wrist shot from the blue line that hit off of a Flame and found its way to the back of the net. Mike Cammalleri brought the Flames back to within two goals in the final minute of the second period. Jiri Hudler made it a one goal game, but the Flames could not tie it up as Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 11 of 12 shots in the third period. He would face 30 shots on the night as Ramo saw 23 from the Penguins.
Last Game for the Senators: Saturday, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Kyle Turris opened up the scoring for the Senators with a power play goal at 6:14 of the first period. Zack Smith made it 2-0 at 3:10 of the second period. Antoine Vermette and Radim Vrbata would tie things up before Marc Methot put the Senators back ahead 3-2. Vermette got a power play goal at 17:47 of the third period. He would then score his third of the night at 2:23 of the overtime period. Craig Anderson faced 38 shots while Mike Smith saw 40 from the Senators.
Last Time These Two Teams Met: The last time these two teams met in the regular season was April 22, 2013. Seconds after catching a stick to the face in the neutral zone, Dustin Jeffrey would score off of a tic-tac-toe play from Pascal Dupuis and Brenden Morrow. Later in the first period, Jeffrey would make a pass to Morrow behind the goal line. As Craig Anderson was looking over his right shoulder, Morrow would find Jarome Iginla on the left side of the net for a wrist shot. After nearly a period and a half of no scoring, Patrick Wierioch would bring the Senators to within a goal at 7:18 of the third period when he got a one-time goal off the faceoff past Tomas Vokoun. Later, with less than three minutes remaining in the game, Matt Cooke won a board battle against two Senators to find Tyler Kennedy, would beat Anderson to make it 3-1. Vokoun faced 35 shots on the night while Anderson saw 24 from the Penguins.
The two teams would meet again for the final time of the playoffs on May 24, 2013 as the Penguins closed out the Eastern Conference Semifinals by beating the Senators 6-2. The Penguins got three goals in the first two periods before Milan Michalek would answer for the Senators. With 30 seconds remaining in the second period, James Neal picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and found Evgeni Malkin behind the Senators defense for a breakaway. Malkin then wristed the puck past Craig Anderson to make 4-1. James Neal would make it 5-1 when he intercepted an errant pass from Sergei Gonchar in front of the net. Kyle Turris would score the second goal of the night for the Senators at 13:32 of the third period. James Neal got the hat trick goal with less than three minutes remaining to bring the game to the final score of 6-2. Tomas Vokoun would face 31 shots as Craig Anderson saw 33 from the Penguins.
Last 10 Games for the Penguins: 9-1.
Last 10 Games for the Senators: 3-4-3.
Story of the Game: The Penguins and Senators should be viewed as a rivalry by now but are not. Rivalries are made in the playoffs, and these two teams have met each other in the postseason four times since 2007, yet no legitimate rivalry has formed and no one talks about how these two teams do not like each other until they meet in the spring and someone says, “Oh yeah, they play each other a lot in the playoffs.” While this season has seen fans and media debate whether the Penguins have a true rivalry with teams like the Rangers, the Bruins, and the Capitals, the matchups with the Senators have flown almost completely under the radar. If pressed for an answer, I would bet money that fans would consider the Columbus Blue Jackets a bigger rivalry than the Ottawa Senators.
Is this because the media has failed to manufacture this rivalry, as they have been accused of the doing with the Capitals? Granted, these two teams do not show the same hatred of each other like the Penguins and Flyers, nor do they have an overly physical history like the Penguins have with the Bruins and Rangers (although, Eugene Melnyk and Erik Karlsson would like to have a word with me). They are also only halfway to having as many playoffs series against each other as the Penguins and Capitals.
So when do two teams become rivals? Would you consider this a real rivalry with one more playoff series? How about three more playoff series? Do the Senators have to oust the Penguins from the postseason once or twice more to build steam for a feud? Until something happens to make fans search the schedule at the beginning of the season, these will continue to just be two teams who have met in the playoffs a few times.
Penguins All-Time Record Against the Senators: 45-29-9-2.
Player to Watch on the Penguins: Matt Niskanen has six points (2g-4a) in his last 10 games as he has a career year.
Player to Watch on the Senators: Bobby Ryan has seven points (2g-5a) in his last 10 games for the Senators.