After two straight wins, the Ottawa Senators are feeling a little better about their playoff chances. The New Jersey Devils, on the other hand, couldn’t feel any worse after absorbing their ninth straight loss.
Craig Anderson made 33 saves in his third shutout of the season, and the Senators extended the Devils’ losing streak to within one of the franchise record with a 2-0 victory Friday night.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Milan Michalek second-period goals for the Senators, who won for the second consecutive night following a five-game skid.
”It does a lot,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said of the playoff push. ”We’ve done a good job of staying positive. We lost five in a row, but our fourth and fifth games we felt we were going in the right direction. We were playing pretty good. The last two wins is a reward for that hard play, and you build some confidence from that.”
Ottawa, in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, lead ninth-place Winnipeg by four points. New Jersey is in 10th place, eight points behind Ottawa and four behind the New York Rangers and the postseason cutoff with seven games to play.
The Senators will finish a season-high, seven-game trip at Boston on Monday. They will then play five of their final six at home, where they are 13-3-3.
”We got two points. That’s all that matters,” Anderson said after his 22nd career shutout. ”Thirty three shots isn’t really that many shots. It’s average for us. We did a great job of cleaning up rebounds in front. I felt like I was leaving a lot of junk out there, but our battle level was outstanding.”
The defending East champion Devils dropped to 0-5-4 without injured star forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said this skid has been one of the most frustrating in his 19 seasons with the club.
”It’s been tough because the guys, they care, and they are playing hard,” the 40-year-old Brodeur said.
”I see them between periods and how tired they are and how focused they are and how the coaching staff is getting them ready. When you go out there and execute what you are supposed to do and you come back with nothing — what is it, eight or nine games in a row? — it’s just a tough way to play hockey.”
Kovalchuk appears close to returning to the lineup, but it might be too late for the Devils. Their skid began when he sustained a shoulder injury on March 23 against Florida.
As has been the case in recent weeks, New Jersey seemed to control the territorial play and the shot count, but it didn’t help produce any goals.
”It just happens everything is working against us now,” said forward Patrik Elias, who played on two of the Devils’ Stanley Cup championship teams. ”We’re working hard and trying to create our own luck, and it’s not happening.”
Despite outshooting the Senators 23-9 in the opening 40 minutes and getting an early two-man advantage for the second straight game, the Devils trailed 2-0 heading into the third period.
Pageau, called up from Binghamton of the AHL on Wednesday, earned an assist that night in the win at Philadelphia. Then he scored his first NHL goal in his second game.
Erik Condra intercepted a pass around the boards by Devils defenseman Mark Fayne and tried to center it from deep in the right corner. The puck deflected off Devils center Andrei Loktionov, and went right to Colin Greening between the circles.
Greening sent a backhander toward goal and Pageau came out from behind the net and tipped the puck over Brodeur’s shoulder at 3:08.
”It’s a great feeling,” Pageau said. ”In the American League, it took me 25 games to get my first one. Scoring in my second game, I’m really happy and looking forward to scoring more.”
The goal came on the Senators’ first legitimate shot on goal after they had three in the first period.
Michalek, who had missed the previous 15 games and 25 of 27 because of injuries, scored his third goal of the season.
The play started when Devils defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Henrik Tallinder collided near the Senators’ blue line. Michalek skated the puck down the left side on a 2-on-1 rush, made a pass to Alfredsson coming down the middle, and then took the return pass for a shot into a wide open net.
The Devils had chances to get back into it.
Steve Sullivan was stopped by Anderson early on a shot from between the circles and then had a rebound hit off the post seconds later. Zidlicky had a couple of shots on the two-man advantage in the first period that lasted for 1:24, and Matt D’Agostini was stopped on a good chance from between the circles.
Anderson’s best save probably was a stick stop on Ryan Carter late in the second period after a Senators turnover during a power play set up a 2-on-1, short-handed chance.
”I thought the other team played good,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said. ”Our goaltender was a big part of the game and our penalty killing was a big part. I thought they deserved a better fate, but we’ve been there before on this trip where the stat sheet looks real good for us but the scoreboard doesn’t.”
Notes: Anderson is 6-2-1 against the Devils. … New Jersey is 3 of 33 on the power play without Kovalchuk in this losing streak. … The Devils’ next two games are on the road: at Toronto and Philadelphia. … When the Devils lost 10 straight in 83-84, they started that season 2-20. … New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov sat out the first game of a four-game suspension for elbowing Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head on Wednesday. Devils captain and fellow defenseman Bryce Salvador missed the game because of a wrist injury sustained in the same game after he was hit by Zdeno Chara’s shot.