On a night when David Rundblad scored his first NHL goal and Jason Spezza scored twice to hit the 200-goal mark, it was the Ottawa Senators’ defensive specialists who carried the club to victory Sunday.
The sloppy 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the club’s penalty killers and a bounce back effort from goaltender Craig Anderson.
Appropriately enough, the game ended with the Senators shorthanded goal, holding off a final-minute push from the Hurricanes. The Senators were a man short for one quarter of the contest, killing off seven of eight Carolina power plays.
“A win is a win, a good win,” said coach Paul MacLean, breathing a sigh of relief before the club jumped back on a plane late Sunday night and the start of yet another three-game road trip Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets. “We took a lot of penalties by not moving our feet and not skating, but our penalty killers did yeomen work, along with Craig Anderson, and that was a big reason why we won the game.”
Zack Smith, a penalty-killing force all night, also scored a pivotal third period goal for the Senators. Patrick Dwyer, Eric Staal and Alexei Ponikarovsky had the Hurricanes goals.
It was far from pretty — the Senators were outshot 37-25 — but it looked a lot better than the Senators’ 6-3 defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins when Anderson was gone early after yielding four goals on eight shots.
Sunday, Anderson made the big saves when he had to and the Senators never trailed.
Spezza hit the milestone mark with a pair of first period goals, snapping his personal 11-game scoring drought. His second goal, which gave the Senators a 2-1 lead, came on the power play, breaking an 0-for-16 slump with the man advantage in the previous four games. The Senators were only 2-for-34 on the power play in their previous 10 games.
“It’s nice to score, I’ve been struggling to put the puck in the net the last few games and it felt good to get on the board,” he said.
Rundblad’s first NHL goal came with 14 seconds left in the second period, a shot which deflected off Hurricanes defenceman Joni Pitkanen and past goaltender Cam Ward.
“I just try to shoot as much as possible every game and sometimes, it must go in,” said Rundblad, who had been a healthy scratch for the previous five games. “Of course (it’s a relief). I’ve been waiting for it. I’m not playing for five games. It’s nice to get back into the roster and really nice to score, too. It’s tough (sitting out). I want to play more and more, but there’s nothing I can do about it, but just work hard.”
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Why They Won: Special teams. The Senators were shorthanded for 15:31, but allowed only one goal, killing off seven of eight Hurricanes power plays. Jason Spezza scored on the power play and David Rundblad’s goal came only seconds after another power play had expired.
Stud: Zack Smith, Senators. Smith was feeling shame for his last-minute high sticking penalty, but he had done his part shorthanded before that. Smith, who is supposed to be the club’s third line centre, led all Senators forwards with 18:19 of ice time – the most of all Senators forwards. He also scored the Senators fourth goal.
Dud: Cam Ward, Hurricanes. From the 55-second mark when Spezza opened the scoring on a deke, Ward never really looked comfortable around his crease. He couldn’t find the puck on Smith’s goal and ended up stopping only 21 of 25 shots.
SPEZZA DELIVERY: Spezza likes the eye of the Hurricanes. After Sunday’s two-goal effort, he now has 16 goals and 20 assists in 29 career games versus Carolina.