The Ottawa Senators were hoping the return of three regular players from injury would give them a boost against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Instead, they suffered a lopsided defeat and lost captain Daniel Alfredsson in the process.
Evgeni Malkin had his fourth career hat trick to help the Penguins hammer the Senators 8-2 on Wednesday.
The game couldn’t have gone worse for the Senators, who are expected to be without Alfredsson for at least a few weeks after he left late in the first period with a left shoulder injury.
“I’ll probably see the doctor (Thursday) and do an X-ray and see what the damage is,” said Alfredsson, whose arm was in a sling. “But I expect at least a few weeks.”
The loss of the team’s career leader in virtually every relevant category and longest-serving captain in the league came on a night Ottawa welcomed back three regulars to the lineup after extended absences: goalie Pascal Leclaire (fractured cheekbone, out 15 games), winger Chris Neil (left knee, 14 games) and winger Shean Donovan (right knee, 17 games).
“(Alfredsson’s) a big loss,” said Leclaire, who was pulled during the second intermission after allowing six goals on 24 shots. “He’s definitely our leader and a key player on our team. It seems we’re getting the injury bug a little… but we have some good guys in here. We all have to step it up a little bit.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Montreal 5 Carolina 1; Minnesota 3 Edmonton 1; New York Islanders 3 Toronto 1; St. Louis 2 Calgary 1 (SO); Chicago 3 Detroit 0; Washington 5 Buffalo 2; Boston 6 Atlanta 4; New York Rangers 4 Florida 1; Philadelphia 5 Tampa Bay 2; Dallas 3 Columbus 1; and Phoenix 4 Anaheim 0.
At Pittsburgh, the Penguins’ Craig Adams hit Alfredsson while his head was down and he was battling for the puck with a Penguin in the left-wing corner, causing Alfredsson’s helmet to fly off and him to lay on the ice for a short time.
Adams was not penalized, and the Senators clearly were not pleased with that. Coach Cory Clouston tersely declined comment repeatedly when asked what he thought of the hit and whether it should have drawn a penalty.
Anton Volchenkov and Chris Kelly scored for Ottawa, which has lost four of six.
Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz had four points apiece during Pittsburgh’s five-goal second period, when Ruslan Fedotenko also scored.
Sergei Gonchar added a goal and two assists, and Sidney Crosby three assists for the Penguins (26-11-1), who tied a season high for goals and matched New Jersey with 53 points to head into the holiday break tied atop the NHL standings.
“In a game like this a couple guys will have big nights and that’s good to see,” said Guerin, who had his first four-point game in almost three years.
Malkin had only two goals in his previous 10 games and was held off the score sheet in each of his past two but had his first multiple-goal regular-season game since March 17 against Atlanta.
Malkin scored once in each period, the first and last off nice setups by Crosby.
“Sid made good passes to me twice and the power play played good tonight,” Malkin said. “We played very well the whole game.”
The Penguins, on a 9-2-1 run, entered the game with the league’s worst power play, but went 3-for-8 with an extra man, scoring three power-play goals for the second time this season.
Guerin had two of them in the second period and assisted on goals by Malkin and Kunitz during that period.
“It was frustrating and embarrassing,” Ottawa alternate captain Mike Fisher said. “It seemed like every mistake we made, they made us pay.”
Even before the hit on Alfredsson, the Senators already were ornery with officiating. Tuesday, general manager Bryan Murray called the league to complain after the team did not have a power play during a game for the third time this season on Monday.
Ottawa was given six opportunities Wednesday – not converting any. The Senators sent 47 shots at goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. It was the third time this season they had at least that many shots, but they have only a combined four goals in those contests and lost each.
In a game that included a hat trick and eight goals, the winning team’s goalie was named the No. 1 star.
“A score like that you don’t expect to see 40-plus (opponent) shots on the board,” Crosby said. “(Fleury) saw a lot of rubber for a score like that. He stayed sharp.”
Canadiens 5 Hurricanes 1
At Raleigh, N.C., Glen Metropolit scored two power-play goals after Andrei Markov had his third in three games for Montreal.
Wild 3 Oilers 1
At St. Paul, Minn., Niklas Backstrom made 30 saves for Minnesota to improve to 14-1 in his career against Edmonton.
Islanders 3 Maple Leafs 1
At Uniondale, N.Y., Trent Hunter and John Tavares scored 90 seconds apart in the second period, and Dwayne Roloson made 26 saves for New York.
Blues 2 Flames 1 (SO)
At Calgary, Brad Boyes and TJ Oshie scored shootout goals night to give St. Louis a victory over the Flames.
Blackhawks 3 Red Wings 0
At Detroit, Antti Niemi made 33 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and his career, and Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist to lift Chicago over the Red Wings.
Capitals 5 Sabres 2
At Washington, Nicklas Backstrom had two goals, and Alex Ovechkin added a goal and two assists in the Capitals’ ninth victory in 12 games.
Bruins 6 Thrashers 4
At Boston, Marc Savard, Daniel Paille and Vladimir Sobotka scored during a 1:08 span of the first period, and Savard added two assists for Boston.
Rangers 4 Panthers 1
At New York, Vinny Prospal broke out of a 14-game scoring drought with a pair of goals, and the Rangers stretched their winning streak to four games.
Flyers 5 Lightning 2
At Tampa, Fla., Blair Betts and Mike Richards each scored two goals, and Simon Gagne also scored to help Philadelphia snap a four-game losing streak.
Stars 3 Blue Jackets 1
At Dallas, James Neal scored twice, Jamie Benn added a goal, and Alex Auld made 33 saves for Dallas, 6-1-2 in its last nine home games.
Coyotes 4 Ducks 0
At Glendale, Ariz., Ilya Bryzgalov made 21 saves for his NHL-leading fifth shutout of the season and Phoenix’s eighth straight home victory.