Senators lose star goalie Anderson but win game

When will the nightmare end? The Ottawa Senators and their fans endured yet another painful sight Thursday.

Senators lose star goalie Anderson but win game
Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson is taken down New York Rangers' Chris Kreider during third period NHL action in Ottawa on Thursday February 21, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

As Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson lay on the ice outside the crease, defenceman Marc Methot was staring in disbelief. Methot couldn’t fathom the possibility of yet another major injury happening to another pivotal player.

“That was tough,” said Methot, who watched, along with the rest of the Senators players and the stunned Scotiabank Place crowd of 19,076, as Anderson limped off the ice and into the dressing room with the help of the club’s training staff early in the third period Thursday. Anderson’s right foot was in the air.

“I’m speaking, I’m sure, for a lot of the guys on the team when I say my heart sank into my stomach. When you’ve got one of the guys who is a large part of the heart and soul of the team and he has been playing so well, that’s just the luck we’ve been getting right now.”

With backup Ben Bishop taking over in goal, the Senators eventually defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 when Jakob Silfverberg and Kaspars Daugavins beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in a 14-player shootout. The victory, however, paled in comparison to the possibility of losing Anderson for any length of time.

The initial word from the Senators was that Anderson had suffered a sprained right ankle. He’s officially listed as day-to-day, but it looked awfully serious as he left the ice amid the silence in the crowd. While Anderson wasn’t available to the media, he did offer a post-game tweet, saying, “Another 2 pts. Bish stood tall. Hard place to come in the game. My ankle’s going to be OK. Be back ASAP.”

Anderson was the NHL’s best netminder through the first third of the season and a leading candidate to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Before Thursday’s game, he sported an 8-4-2 record, with a league-leading 1.57 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. Robin Lehner, the Senators’ 21-year-old goaltender of the future, was immediately recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

There was nothing malicious in the play, which occurred with the Senators leading 1-0.

As Rangers rookie Chris Kreider went hard to the net, his skate caught Methot’s stick and he fell, sliding into Anderson.

“It was a routine play, it was not intentional, at least I don’t think it was,” said Methot. “He stepped on my stick. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”

The Senators organization must be wondering when the nightmare of injuries is finally going to end.

Eight days ago, star defenceman Erik Karlsson suffered a torn Achilles tendon when his leg was sliced by Penguins agitator Matt Cooke, resulting in surgery that will keep him sidelined until the 2013-14 season. No. 1 centre Jason Spezza, top left winger Milan Michalek, as well as fellow forwards Guillaume Latendresse and Peter Regin are out with injuries. Defenceman Jared Cowen will also miss the entire season following hip surgery in November.

And now, it’s Anderson, who has been the backbone for the Senators as they’ve attempted to hang on, despite their many ailments.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson couldn’t help but offer up some dark humour.

“It’s pretty much expected,” Alfredsson said, when asked about losing another key player. “We’re going to start a pool to see who’s next. So, we’ll keep going with what we have and see what happens.”

Alfredsson says it’s extra disheartening when a player who at the top of his game goes down.

“It’s never fun,” he said. “Especially when a player is playing as well as he is. He’s got something going. Hopefully, it’s nothing major and he can get back quick.”

Senators coach Paul MacLean, who is now accustomed to adjusting his lineup to make room for injury replacements on an almost daily basis, says the team has no choice but to move on. He took time to credit the organization’s scouting staff for stockpiling enough talent in the minors to be able to replace the number of walking wounded.

To their credit, the Senators somehow managed to get past the Anderson injury to win a game that could have easily slipped away from them.

The Senators held a 1-0 lead on Silfverberg’s first period short-handed goal when Kreider crashed into Anderson.

Bishop came in cold and yielded goals to Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh 49 seconds apart midway through the period as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead.

The Senators, however, weren’t done. Mika Zibanajed tied the game on the power play. After a scoreless overtime, the teams went to a shootout that went on and on and on.

While Callahan was the lone Ranger to beat Bishop on the seven shots he faced, Silfverberg and Daugavins managed to score against Lundqvist. The Daugavins goal came after he fanned on an attempted deke and the puck slipped between the legs of the Rangers goaltender.

Bishop has now stopped nine of 10 shootout shots in his past two games. His immediate concern after the game was Anderson’s health.

“It was scary,” he said. “You never want to see anyone go down like that, so hopefully he’s okay.”

Upon coming into the game, though, Bishop said he had to put blinders on to Anderson’s situation.

“You want to know if he’s okay at first, but once the puck drops, you just want to do your job. At that point, your mind kind of shuts off from that other world and you start playing hockey.”

Methot credited everyone involved for dealing with the adversity in the best possible way.

“We’ve got great leadership on this team and that comes right from the coaches on down,” he said. “They handled it pretty well on the bench. It’s pretty impressive, especially with all the young players we have on this squad. We’re a pretty resilient bunch right now.”

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