Senators rally past Panthers

Perhaps all those pre-game soccer warm-up drills have a purpose, after all.

Florida Panthers' Brad Boyes (24) and Clarke MacArthur (24) battle for the puck while goalie Craig Anderson looses his helmet during the first period of a NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (J. Pat Carter/AP Photo)

Perhaps all those pre-game soccer warm-up drills have a purpose, after all.

Just ask Colin Greening after the Senators much needed 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers here Tuesday.

Greening scored the winner with 43 seconds left in the second period, in a game which was full of unlikely heroes, unlikely bounces and unlikely line combinations.

With the Senators on a power play in the final minute of the second period, Joe Corvo’s point shot deflected off Greening’s leg, popped high in the air, over the head of Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas and into the net. Bend it like Beckham, indeed.

Bobby Ryan provided the third period insurance, all alone at the side of the net to finish off a Jared Cowen pass.

At the other end of the ice, Senators goaltender Craig Anderson added to his mastery over the Panthers, improving his career record over Florida to 10-1-1. Anderson, who came into the game fresh from being pulled last Thursday against Vancouver, rebounded impressively after a shaky start, ending up with 30 saves.

After losing six of their previous eight games, the Senators desperately needed a victory here to try and climb back up the Eastern Conference ladder towards a playoff spot. Coupled with Toronto’s loss to San Jose Tuesday, the Senators are now five points behind the Maple Leafs for the final wild card spot in the East.

Desperate to find a winning combination, Senators coach Paul MacLean made like a mad scientist in shaking up his lines this way and that.

After the Senators handed the Panthers an early 2-0 lead on a pair of early Florida power-play goals, MacLean’s roster-shuffling paid off.

Corvo got the comeback started when his floating wrist shot from the blue-line cleared a pack of players in the slot and caught the top corner past a stunned Thomas.

With 1:15 left in the first period, Erik Condra tied the game 2-2, finishing off a pretty passing play with Clarke MacArthur and Jason Spezza. Condra is normally a fourth-line checking winger, but MacLean’s hunch to put him with Spezza and MacArthur paid off.

Newcomer Mike Hoffman was on a unit with Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan, while Greening was with Zack Smith and Chris Neil. Mika Zibanejad centered another line with Corey Conacher and Milan Michalek on his wings.

Like the Senators, the Panthers came into the game in a tailspin, with a record of 1-3-1 in their previous five games, outscored 10-3 in the previous two.

The Senators and Panthers have both allowed a boatload of first-period goals this season — Ottawa had yielded 30 and Buffalo 26 before the game — and they were up their old tricks again Tuesday.

After Mike Hoffman and Jason Spezza took penalties 47 seconds apart to give the Panthers a 5-on-3 edge, Jonathan Huberdeau beat Anderson, cashing in on his own rebound. With Spezza still in the penalty box, Brian Campbell jumped in from the point, streaked to the net and ripped a wrist shot over Anderson’s trapper. The Senators have yielded 13 power-play goals in their past nine games.

After Campbell’s goal, the Senators looked as dismal as the crowd, which numbered somewhere around 5,000 in the cavernous 20,737-seat BB & T Center.

Give the Senators credit.

Anderson made huge saves off Scottie Upshall and Nick Bjugstad to keep the game within reach and then the Senators fought back, finishing the first period with a 21-10 edge in shots.

The Senators are now in position to complete the Florida sweep in Tampa Thursday, but Tampa presents a more formidable challenge, with former Senators netminder Big Ben Bishop backstopping the Lightning.

GAME FILE

WHY THEY WON: The Senators bounced back after a terrible start, which included a pair of Florida power play goals in the opening 8:22, and directed pucks and more pucks at Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas. A lucky bounce or two didn’t hurt, either.

CHEERS: Joe Corvo, Senators: They don’t say how, they say how many. Corvo got the Senators back into the game with a floater past Tim Thomas in the first period. He helped put the Senators ahead when his point shot late in the final minute of the second bounced off Colin Greening’s leg, popped in the air and over Thomas’s head into the net.

JEERS: Penalty killing, Senators: Yes, they survived, but against a better team, the two early power play goals they gave up Tuesday would have buried them for good. The Senators penalty killers have given up 13 goals in the past nine games. That’s not close to good enough.

BIG NIGHT FOR BIG RIG: Chris Phillips hit the 1,100 regular season game mark Tuesday, only 78 shy of Daniel Alfredsson’s franchise record for most games played. Now in his 16th season with the Senators, Phillips has one goal and 10 assists in 27 games and is on pace for a career-high point total.

Tags:

What do you think? Leave a comment