The final word(s): Senators win fourth straight, dump Caps 3-1

The Ottawa Senators crept closer to a playoff berth with their fourth straight victory on Thursday night, 3-1 over the Washington Capitals.
With the eighth-place New York Rangers and the seventh-place New York Islanders also winning, the Senators needed the win to keep their hold on sixth in the Eastern Conference.
But now only one point behind the fifth-place Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost to the Islanders, the Senators could leap their Ontario rivals with a win here on Saturday night.
Might be a good night to lock Toronto fans out of the building.
Kyle Turris had two goals, one into an empty net with 1:27 left to seal the win, and Cory Conacher had one for the Senators. It was his second as a Senator.
Mike Ribeiro scored for the Capitals.
Craig Anderson didn’t have his busiest night of the season but was excellent in stopping 18 of 19 shots.
He had nothing but praise for his teammates.
“That was probably one of our better 60-minute efforts,” he said.
“It was just a fun game to watch. We were good with the puck. We were making good first passes. We limited the amount of turnovers that would have created offence for them.
“That team over there, they thrive on turnovers, and we really did a good job protecting the puck and moving the puck forward.
“When we needed to make a play to get it out of the zone to reduce the pressure, we did.”
A big key for the Senators was containing the Capitals’ surging offence, and they did.
Much of it fell to the defensive pairing of Chris Phillips and Marc Methot, who had the task of guarding Alexander Ovechkin.
They were successful, holding him to just four shots. To rub it in, Phillips outscored Ovechkin, getting two assists.
“We worked hard, kept it simple, and limited their chances,” said Phillips.
“Any shots were pretty much from the outside. We didn’t allow them to get to any rebounds, and if there was one, (Anderson) played great for us.
“So, yes, we’re very satisfied with this one.
“It was nothing extraordinary. We just played the game hard and simple.”
Braden Holtby faced 37 shots for the Capitals.
The Senators got out of the second period with a 2-1 lead but might have reasonably expected something better.
After outshooting the Capitals 11-4 in the first, they outshot them 16-8 in the second, and had some excellent chances, including one by Chris Neil that should make the highlight reels.
He did an expert imitation of Jason Spezza, sliding the puck through a surprised Capitals defenceman Mike Green for an open chance on Holtby.
Unluckily, he didn’t have Spezza’s ability to finish.
His backhand hit the left post and then bounced off Holtby’s back as he was sliding out of the net, his motion saving the day by dropping the puck wide of the net.
For the Senators, Turris opened the scoring at 1:15 with the 100th point of his career and his first goal in 14 games (since March 17) when he beat Holtby with a shot from the right side. It went over Holtby’s stick hand (right) and into the far side of the net.
The goal was sweet relief.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said Turris of his scoring drought.
“Obviously I’m trying to do everything I can to make it consistent.
“I’m trying to put myself in better spots, more dangerous areas, just trying to create more.
“Some nights they go in, and it seems like lots of nights they haven’t been.”
Ribeiro evened it at 11:14 when he batted a pass from Martin Erat out of the air and past Anderson, but Conacher put the Senators ahead two minutes later on a pure gift.
Behind his net to clear the puck up the left boards, Holtby put it squarely on Conacher’s stick. He sent it back into an open net.
“At first it’s obviously surprising when stuff like that happens, but you have to be ready for anything like that,” said Conacher.
“It was a little bit of a miscue. I kind of sneaked off the bench, and I think their (defenceman) was also pretty tired, so it all worked out for me.
“I scored my first NHL goal on him, and he gladly gave me my 11th.”
With two power plays in the first period, the Senators might have been expected to generate some decent scoring chances, but they didn’t even scare the Capitals.
Instead, their best chances came when they were five-on-five, especially in the final five minutes, when they probably should have had at least one goal.
The power play remained stone cold.
Through the end of the first, it had been unsuccessful in its last eight chances and had produced only two goals in its last 35 chances.
Its inability to score in four chances against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday had irked Senators coach Paul MacLean and was on its way to irking him again – and justifiably so, considering that the Capitals are the league’s second-worst team at killing penalties.
They would have one more power-play chance, in the third, but it ended up being only 20 seconds long. Turris evened it up by getting called for holding the stick.
The period’s two best chances came from Chris Phillips and Guilluame Latendresse but they ended up letting Holtby off the hook by shooting wide.
MacLean said he thought it the most complete game the Senators have played “in quite awhile.
“We were very focused, and I thought we executed much better,” he said.
“It was a real solid game from start to finish.”

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THE VITAL STATS

7: The number of shots from Mika Zibanejad, the most on either team.

21:43: Jared Cowen’s ice time, most on the Senators

22:24: Mike Green’s ice time, most on the Capitals

4: Shots from Alexander Ovechkin, most on the Capitals

5: Hits by Cory Conacher, most on the Senators

4: Hits by Troy Brouwer, most on the Capitals

61 per cent: Ottawa’s faceoff-winning percentage

39 per cent: Washington’s faceoff-winning percentage

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THURSDAY’S GAME FILE

CHEERS: Craig Anderson: His value to the team can’t be overstated. Once again he made some game-savers to preserve the victory. Probably the best was on a breakaway by Eric Fehr with 8:47 left.

JEERS: The power play was once again terrible, with two chances in the first, and a brief one inn the third, not even producing a scoring chance. It has now been unsuccessful in its last nine chances and has produced only two goals in its last 36 chances.

WHY THEY WON: The Senators played a terrific defensive game, holding the Capitals to just 19 shots. Chris Phillips, who himself had two assists, deserves special praise for holding Alexander Ovechkin to four shots.

LOOKING AHEAD: With the Maple Leafs losing the Islanders, Saturday’s night here at Scotiabank Place takes on new meaning: a victory by the Maple Leafs would clinch their first playoff berth since 2004. Imagine what the building will sound like filled with Toronto fans.

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