Big Rig flattens Predators in 1,000th game

You can’t make this stuff up. Chris Phillips, playing in his 1,000th career game Thursday, scored twice in the Ottawa Senators 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators Thursday, including the eventual winner.

You can’t make this stuff up.

In his 1,000th career game, Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Phillips discovered an offensive touch, scoring twice, helping end the team’s seven-game losing streak in a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators.

It was a bizarre development for the defensive defenceman. Phillips came into the game without a goal in his previous 74 games, dating all the way back to last Feb. 26.

“It was fun and exciting to be in my 1,000th game and to then top it off with a couple of goals and what ended up being the game winner, you can’t write that stuff,” Phillips said. “Everything turned out great tonight. A hard-fought game against a top team. We played the way we have to play. Just a great game for our team to feed off.”

Phillips’ teammates were ecstatic that he was able to deliver so much in his milestone game.

“I think (Phillips) scoring two goals proves there are hockey gods and rewarding a great person,” said Jason Spezza, who scored the Senators other two goals. “He’s a great teammate. He’s a guy that’s highly regarded in this dressing room and I don’t think there’s a guy in this room that isn’t happy for him. To see him have the night he had is a pretty special moment for our team.”

Phillips’ big night – the fourth two-goal game of his career and the last since he turned the trick in his 800th career game – was so unlikely story line that it took the spotlight away from several other significant events.

The end of the losing streak is the most important, of course. The victory, coupled with the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, puts the Senators (28-22-7) back into seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. Keep in mind, though, that Toronto has played two fewer games.

Then there was the effort of back-up goaltender Alex Auld, making his first start since Dec. 30. Auld stopped 24 shots against the Predators (32-18-5) to pick up his second win of the season.

“I felt good, I felt comfortable, I was seeing the puck and I was just trying to focus on that, finding the puck and just letting it hit me,” said Auld.

Spezza, who came into the game without a goal in his previous eight games, also had a big night, with the two goals and an assist. The top line of Spezza, Milan Michalek and Bobby Butler, back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the previous three games, combined for seven points.

“We hope it’s a stepping stone,” said coach Paul MacLean. “It’s another building block in our foundation and a place to start for the next game.”

Spezza opened the scoring, only the second time in the past 12 games that the Senators scored first. Gabriel Bourque tied the game for Nashville late in the first period. Phillips’ first goal gave the Senators a 2-1 lead, but Patric Hornqvist tied it 2-2.

Spezza gave the Senators a 3-2 lead on a power play with only 1:05 left in the second period. Phillips scored his second of the night, also on the power play, with 6:25 to go, and it was pivotal. Nashville’s Martin Erat made it 4-3 with only 10 seconds left and with goaltender Pekka Rinne on the bench for an extra skater.

The night, however, belonged to Phillips.

“To see Philly have a night have a big night like that, I’m happy for him,” said former Senators star Mike Fisher, playing his first game with Nashville at Scotiabank Place. “He stole the show, for sure.”

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Game File

Why They Won: They scored first and they never trailed. For the first time in seemingly forever, the Senators weren’t forced to play catch-up hockey at any point. They were also able to protect a third period lead.

Stud: Chris Phillips, Senators. In his 1,000th career game, Phillips had the magic touch, scoring twice. Coming into the game, Phillips hadn’t scored since last Feb. 26, a span of 75 games.

Dud: Nick Spaling, Predators. Milan Michalek stripped the puck from the Predators centre deep in the Predators zone late in the second period, leading directly to Jason Spezza’s second goal, which broke a 2-2 tie.

The top line returns: Spezza, Michalek and Bobby Butler, who had been a healthy scratch for the previous three games, combined for seven points.

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