Final score: Penguins 4, Senators 2.
Why it matters: The Penguins snapped a two-game losing streak and evened their home record at 3-3, but the game figures to have a much more profound impact on Ottawa. The Senators lost not only a game, but defensemen Erik Karlsson, whose left Achilles was sliced when Penguins winger Matt Cooke's skate came down on the back of his leg late in the second period. Karlsson will require surgery and will be out indefinitely.
In a nutshell: The Penguins scored first for the 11th time in 14 games, as Pascal Dupuis converted a Sidney Crosby assist at 16:23 of the opening period. Ottawa got goals from Stephane Da Costa and Jim O'Brien during a 24-second span in the middle of the second, but James Neal tied the game during a power play at 13:47 – giving the Penguins a man-advantage goal in six consecutive games – and then got the game-winner at 1:52 of the third. Crosby, whose assist on Neal's first goal was his 400th in the NHL, closed out the scoring at 11:42.
Turning point: Ottawa started the evening without two of its best forwards, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, and suffered an even greater blow when Karlsson was injured during the final minute of the second period. He has become the Senators' finest player and his absence was too much for them to overcome, even though six other defensemen had dressed for the game.
Under the radar: Cooke was plugged into the spot Zach Boychuk had been filling alongside Evgeni Malkin and Neal, and responded with what coach Dan Bylsma said might have been his best five-on-five performance of the season. In addition to assisting on Neal's game-winner, Cooke helped the Penguins to kill off all four Ottawa power plays, including a five-on-three that lasted 80 seconds.
The brightest star: Neal continues to score almost at will, as the two he got against Ottawa have him on a pace to rack up no fewer than 34 goals in a 48-game season. Most of his production has come on power plays; if Cooke proves to be a good fit on the line with Malkin and Neal, Neal's productivity might really take off.
The last word: Cooke, describing the play on which Karlsson was injured: "It was the end of a penalty-kill. I was at the end of a shift and (Craig Adams) took a shot and I went to the corner. (Karlsson) and I were engaged. He went down screaming, and I didn't even know what happened. Obviously, I feel terrible about it. I'm not trying to do that, obviously. It's happened (to various players) a few times over the last couple of years, and it's scary."
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