Great timing and good fortune were shining down on the never-say-die Ottawa Senators Saturday.
Meanwhile, the luckless Columbus Blue Jackets must be wondering if they’ll ever win a game.
The Senators appeared down and out until their frantic last minute rally.
Goaltender Craig Anderson was on the bench in favour of an extra skater when Jason Spezza tied the game 3-3 with 36 seconds remaining. Milan Michalek then delivered the finishing touch with only 4.7 seconds to go, neatly deflecting Sergei Gonchar’s point shot past shell-shocked Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason.
The late power play was set up after Blue Jackets defenceman Kris Russell tripped Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson with 1:24 remaining.
The win comes on the heels of Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, giving the Senators consecutive wins for the first time this season. It also gave them a 2-1 record on a three-game homestand, which began with a humiliating 7-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
“We stayed patient right to the end,” said Michalek, who has three goals in his past two games and six goals for the season. “Hopefully that gives us confidence, to win like that. It was a great feeling. Everybody was jumping around, on the bench and in the room.”
The excitement in the Senators dressing room was in stark contrast to the sour mood in the Blue Jackets corner. Columbus has opened the season with an 0-7-1 record, the NHL’s lone winless squad.
The latest defeat was all the more crushing, considering they were nursing a 3-2 lead after Rick Nash scored on the power play 9:20 into the third period. It was the first time this season Columbus had scored more than two goals in a game.
“We’re not getting any breaks,” said Nash. “It seems we’re finding ways to lose games. These are tough times, but we’ve got to stay up, be positive.”
The Blue Jackets, who allowed the Senators to score on both their power play attempts, have killed off only five of 10 opposition power play attempts on the road this season.
The Senators, who have also had their share of early-season struggles, were only too happy to take advantage.
“The leaders on this team in the past week, since those two touchdown games (7-2 loss to Philadelphia and 7-1 loss to Colorado), have really been outstanding,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “They’ve really come to play. And they haven’t needed to be spectacular. They’ve just played. And it has given us a lot of confidence. I think we’re getting more comfortable with our defensive game.”
Zack Smith and Filip Kuba also scored for the Senators. Aaron Johnson and Kris Russell had the Blue Jackets other goals.
There could be some bad news for the Senators to go along with the good. Chris Neil could be facing a suspension after pushing a linesman during a scuffle around the Blue Jackets net, just before the late comeback. Neil received a 10-minute misconduct, but he may also be hearing from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
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WHY THEY WON: The Senators woke up just in time, with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek delivering goals in the final minute against shell-shocked Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason.
STUD: Milan Michalek, Senators. Michalek’s sixth goal of the season couldn’t have come at a better time – with a mere 4.7 seconds remaining in regulation. Michalek was also stationed in the perfect spot on Jason Spezza’s game tying goal, creating havoc in the crease.
DUD: Kris Russell, Blue Jackets. Russell tripped Daniel Alfredsson with time running down on the clock, giving life to Ottawa and putting the Blue Jackets dreadful penalty killing team back on the ice to nurse the lead. It ended badly for the Blue Jackets.
EXCUSE ME, BUT DOES ANYONE HAVE THE TIME? The Scotiabank Place crowd was left guessing how much time was left in the game throughout much of the third period as the video scoreboard malfunctioned three times in the final period. Say, when is that new clock coming, Eugene Melnyk?