Spezza, Senators strike again on Valentine’s Day

Clearly, there’s something about the sunshine and Valentine’s Day that brings out the best in Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators.

Spezza, Senators strike again on Valentine’s Day

TAMPA – Clearly, there’s something about the sunshine and Valentine’s Day that brings out the best in Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators. Or maybe it has something to with the presence of the players’ fathers in the stands.

Whatever the case, the Senators continued their recent domination of the Tampa Bay Lightning here Tuesday, taking advantage of their scoring opportunities for a much-needed 4-0 win.

The victory, backstopped by Craig Anderson’s 28-save shutout also ran the Senators all-time Valentine’s Day record to a 6-0. The win also came after coach Paul MacLean invited the players’ fathers – along for the ride as part of a father-son bonding trip – into the dressing room for his pre-game speech.

Spezza registered the hat trick and picked up an assist on Erik Karlsson’s early goal. Spezza now has 18 goals and 23 assists in 29 career games against the Lightning. In three games against Tampa this season, all Senators victories, Spezza has four goals and two assists. Bobby Butler also two assists, giving him five assists in three games since coming out of the press box to play on the top line with Spezza and Milan Michalek. Kyle Turris was also stopped by Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon on a third period penalty shot.

“I think it’s the challenge of playing (Steve) Stamkos, (Vincent) Lecavalier and (Martin) St. Louis,” said Spezza. “You have to be on your game when playing against those guys. Some rinks you have a pretty good feel in and I’ve had decent success in this rink in the playoffs and regular season and there’s no other way to explain it, I guess.”

The final score makes it look like an easy victory, but it wasn’t.

Karlsson opened the scoring only 64 seconds in and Spezza scored late in the second period — on the power play – to put the Senators up 2-0. He then scored twice more in the third, completing his hat trick into an empty net.

Yet if not for Anderson’s stellar play early, it would have been an entirely different game.

It wasn’t a particularly pretty game, either — the contest featured long stretches of sloppy play on the soft ice conditions – but it was exactly what the Senators needed following a poor five-game stretch at Scotiabank Place. The Senators came into the game having lost eight of their previous nine games, including a 1-2-2 record during the homestand.

Anderson’s best stop was a sliding pad save to rob Ted Purcell with six minutes left in the first period and he was aggressive in challenging Lightning shooters all game long.

“I just wanted to throw something different at (Purcell),” said Anderson. “I think if I butterfly there, he just puts it over my glove, but throw something new at him and maybe surprise him a little bit and catch him off guard.”

Anderson also acknowledged having some good luck. When he missed an attempted poke check on Steve Stamkos in the first period, Stamkos’s shot hit the side of the net.

GAME FILE

Why They Won: They scored early and Craig Anderson was sharp in keeping the Lightning off the board until Jason Spezza burst out with his three goals.

Stud: Craig Anderson, Senators. He provided a little bit of everything; a sliding stop pad stop off Ted Purcell, a sprawling poke check, a deflection off his mask and was lightning quick – pun intended – around his crease in stopping 28 shots.

Dud: Pavel Kubina, Lightning. Tampa was pressing throughout most of the second period until Kubina received an interference penalty. Spezza made him and the Lightning pay on the ensuing power play, giving the Senators the 2-0 lead they took into the final period.

SAY IT AIN’T SO: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, sporting a sunburn, dismissed any possibility of Tampa Bay hosting a Winter Classic Game. Bettman did, however, say that Tampa could host a future All-Star Game and he said that the ownership situation in Phoenix remains a “work in progress.”

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