Vermette stuns Senators as Coyotes rally for win

On an afternoon when Marc Methot appeared poised to play the hometown hero, it was a former Ottawa Senator who stole the show.

Vermette stuns Senators as Coyotes rally for win
Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators is scored on by Antoine Vermette of the Phoenix Coyotes during second period of NHL action at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, December 21, 2013. (Photo by Jean Levac/Ottawa Citizen)

On an afternoon when Marc Methot appeared poised to play the hometown hero, it was a former Ottawa Senator who stole the show.

Antoine Vermette, a fan favourite who started his career and played parts of five seasons here, completed a hat trick in overtime to give the Phoenix Coyotes a 4-3 comeback victory at Canadian Tire Centre Saturday afternoon.

Not even an offensive outburst from their top defensive defenceman could lift the Senators from their season-long doldrums Saturday afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre.

Methot had a goal and an assist to help pace the Senators to 2-0 and 3-2 leads, but Vermette tied things up 3-3 with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, then buried the dagger at 2:23 of overtime.

Zack Smith had the Senators’ other goal, while Craig Anderson made 34 saves in his 10th loss of the season.

Radim Vrbata scored his 10th of the season for the Coyotes, while Canadian Olympic hopeful Mike Smith faced 40 shots in the loss.

Initially, it looked like Methot would pick up his first career power play goal in his 355th National Hockey League game six minutes into the first period, but Kyle Turris was given credit after the game for tipping the puck while it sailed toward the net.

That the Senators scored the first goal and Smith added another just minutes into the second period made this loss particularly dispiriting, given their penchant for spotting opponents one- and two-goal leads early in games this year.

Yet again, they were left wondering how it could all go so wrong.

Although Smith probably regretted the hooking penalty he took just over a minute into Period 2, he made amends on a play nobody saw coming. Smith went top shelf over Smith’s blocker after a stretch pass from defensive defenceman Eric Gryba.

Nothing seems to come easily to the Senators this year, so the Coyotes’ second period rally was no surprise.

Vermette struck first, finishing off a 2-on-1 with a nice deke past Anderson at 5:28. Vrbata sent a little wrister through the five-hole to knot the score 2-2 on a power play midway through the period.

“Here we go again,” the crowd of 16,716 was probably thinking.

Then Methot stepped to the front of the net unchallenged after picking up the puck deep in the Phoenix zone, depositing it in the far side past Smith’s blocker at 14:51 to get the Senators to the second intermission with a lead intact.

Everything was going smoothly in the third, until Erik Condra took a high-sticking penalty at 16:35 and kicked the door wide open again for the desert dogs in the process.

Vermette walked through it with a top corner blast, setting the stage for his OT winner.

GAME FILE

WHY THEY LOST

When teams are mired deep in slumps, even the games they play well enough to win seem to turn against them. Overall, there were positives to take away from this contest, but a few mental lapses cost them big.

CHEERS

Antoine Vermette, Marc Methot

Goals 10, 11 and 12 on the season made it a happy homecoming for Vermette. And two days before Festivus, Bizarro Marc Methot made an appearance at CTC — the defensive conscience of the Ottawa Senators was the offensive catalyst.

JEERS

The officials

They couldn’t stay away from their whistles for long, sending an endless stream of players to the penalty box. The final tally: 21 minors, many of them questionable.

BIRTHDAY BOY

Ottawa native Cody Ceci got a nice birthday gift from Senators coach Paul MacLean, who put the now 20-year-old in the starting lineup against the Coyotes. On the ice for the opening faceoff at the other end were former Sens Vermette and Rob Klinkhammer.

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