OTTAWA, Ontario — A week ago, it was unthinkable that the Ottawa Senators could get back into contention in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race.
Ales Hemsky scored the only goal of the shootout, and the Senators edged the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on Monday night.
Hemsky fired a shot off the post and into the net behind Cam Ward in the second round to give the Senators their third straight win and fourth in fifth games. They have nine points in that stretch.
The Senators are in 12th in the East, four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, who currently hold the second wild-card berth with 82 points. The Hurricanes are seven back.
”All I’m doing is going game-by-game still,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said. ”We won today, now we have to get ready for Wednesday and again we’ll see where we are at (in) 82 games.”
Craig Anderson stopped all three Carolina shooters, including Elias Lindholm with the final attempt, to earn the victory.
Mika Zibanejad scored in regulation for the Senators, and Anderson made 30 saves.
Jeff Skinner scored his 30th goal of the season for Carolina, which got 28 saves from Ward before the shootout.
Coincidental minor penalties in overtime had the teams playing 3-on-3 hockey for two minutes. Kyle Turris had the best opportunity for the Senators but his shot went over the net.
Carolina’s Alex Semin had Anderson beaten on a 2 on 1 but his backhander went wide.
”Structure-wise we weren’t really sure what to do, but you need guys that are creative and are able to beat guys one-on-one because that’s what it comes down to,” Senators defenseman Marc Methot said of the 3-on-3. ”The guys handled it well.”
There were few scoring opportunities through most of the third period, but that changed in the final few minutes when both teams applied pressure in an attempt to keep the other team from earning points in the postseason race.
”There were definitely opportunities and a little spark at the end,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal said. ”The fans started getting into it, knowing the pressure of the last five minutes and that any mistake could be in the back of the net.
”It raised the intensity of the game for sure.”
All the offense was produced in the first period as the game was tied 1-1 before five minutes elapsed.
Zibanejad opened the scoring at 1:41 when he deflected Patrick Wiercioch’s point shot past Ward. The play was reviewed, but the goal was quickly confirmed.
”You’ve got to look at it as a lucky break on their side, and just get ready for the next shot,” Ward said. ”The puck was bouncing a little more than I would have liked, but other than that we gave our team a chance to win.
”Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel good to lose in a shootout.”
Zibanejad improved his career-best numbers to 14 goals and 29 points in 64 games.
”Lately we’ve been taking it one game at a time. It’s cliche but we are,” Zibanejad said. ”We’re doing whatever we can to make sure we get the points.
”The pressure is not on us, the pressure is on the teams above us, and by winning we’re putting more pressure on them.”
Carolina tied it after Erik Karlsson gave away the puck behind his net, and later was the last player to touch it before it went into the net behind Anderson.
Karlsson tried to sweep the puck around the boards behind the net but fanned on his attempt, giving Skinner possession of the puck behind the goal.
He moved from side to side before banking the puck in off Karlsson to tie it at 4:03.
NOTES: Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan, Jared Cowen and Colin Greening sat out for the Senators. Mike Komisarek, Radek Dvorak and Justin Peters were scratched by the Hurricanes. . . . The Senators recalled Jean-Gabriel Pageau from Binghamton (AHL). … Senators forward Kyle Turris was chosen as the NHL’s first star of last week after posting four goals and three assists in four games. . . . Skinner has points in five straight games. . . . Nine of the past 11 games between these team have been decided by one goal.