Senators end trip on winning note

Early in the third period, it appeared as if new captain Jason Spezza would be responsible for righting the Ottawa Senators ship alone.

Senators end trip on winning note
Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with Jared Cowen #2, Cory Conacher #89, Milan Michalek #9 and Patrick Wiercioch #46 after Spezza scored a second period goal against the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Arena on October 15, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Arizona — Early in the third period, it appeared as if new captain Jason Spezza would be responsible for righting the Ottawa Senators ship alone.
But in the end, the Senators needed some overtime heroics from Cory Conacher.
Conacher’s goal, 2:48 into the extra session, gave the Senators a 4-3 victory.
The sigh of relief could be heard all the way back in Ottawa.
As the Senators make the five-hour flight back to Ottawa Wednesday in preparation for Thursday’s home opener against the New Jersey Devils, they can gain a measure of satisfaction at having finished the six-game season opening road stretch with a 2-2-2 record.
Six points in six games is nothing to get overly excited about, but a .500 record looks a lot better than how dismal the picture appeared going into the game.
The victory didn’t come easy.
It appeared as if the Senators were on their way to victory after Spezza completed a natural hat trick – the fifth of his career – as the Ottawa Senators stormed back from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 lead at the 7:19 mark of the third period.
The Coyotes, however, got that one back when Oliver Ekman-Larsson tied the game with 3:30 left in regulation.
The Senators went through some deep soul-searching following Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, trying to answer coach Paul MacLean’s question: “Who are we?”
After a decent start Tuesday, the Senators fell behind 2-0 early in the second period, on the verge of coming home on a five-game losing streak.
Then Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith helped them get back into it.
Spezza scored his first goal in the second period, left all alone at the side of the net after the puck slipped through the legs of the sprawled Smith.
Early in the third period, Smith was caught in no-man’s land. Smith, not wanting to play the puck outside of the trapezoid for fear of taking a penalty, instead left it untouched. In swooped Colin Greening. Greening went around the net and fed Spezza, who shot into an empty net to tie the game.
Spezza then capitalized on a too-many men penalty against the Coyotes, blasting a slapshot past the Coyotes goaltender.
Following a scoreless first period, former Senator Rob Klinkhammer and Radim Vrbata struck only 1:17 apart early in the second period to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.
The two goals had come on only seven shots against Anderson. At that point, it didn’t look good for the Senators coming home. But they didn’t become unglued and they worked themselves back into the game, beginning with Spezza;s first goal.
Following the ugly 4-1 loss to Anaheim Sunday – the Senators third loss in four days – the team didn’t practice Monday.
Instead, the team had an off-ice workout, team meeting and a video session that wasn’t pretty.
As Spezza joked, if they had shown only the highlights, it would have been two minutes long.
“I’m sure the coaches would have loved to have thrown us on the ice, but hey realized the body needs a bit of a rest. The message was loud and clear without having to skate. We’re grown men, we understand those are pretty embarrassing games (in Anaheim and San Jose).
MacLean said “it would have been the wrong thing to bring them in skate for two hours, with no pucks and no nets.”
The way the coach sensed things, the Senators needed a take step and figure out how they want to play, how they want to approach the game
In MacLean’s first year as Senators coach, the club was a more wide open team, scoring a lot, but also giving up plenty. Due to major injuries last season, they were forced to play a tighter game.
And now?
“We need to find out, who are we?,” said MacLean. “Over the last two years, we’ve had two different identities. And this third year, it’s another identity. It’s a significant change in our group with the health of (Milan) Michalek, Spezza and Karlsson. Those three players alone give it a different dimension and different identity.”
The Senators certainly started much better Tuesday.
They took the play to the Coyotes early, forcing Smith into several big early saves, including a pad stop off Michalek and glove saves off Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan and Colin Greening.
Meanwhile, Anderson wasn’t tested for the first time until eight minutes had passed.
The Coyotes survived the early Senators pressure, pushing back late in the first period, which ended tied 0-0.

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