After a night of scoreboard watching provided little help to their playoff push, the Ottawa Senators realize the only guaranteed way to make progress is to help themselves.
They try to match a season high with a fourth consecutive win Wednesday night when they continue their five-game homestand against the New York Islanders.
Ottawa (32-29-14) is still trying to make up ground on Columbus for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. But of the four teams it’s currently chasing only Washington lost in regulation Tuesday, and Columbus’ overtime defeat left the Senators five points behind the Blue Jackets with seven games remaining.
The Senators are 4-0-1 in their last five games following a 2-1 shootout victory over Carolina on Monday. Ales Hemsky netted the only goal in the tiebreaker, and Craig Anderson made 30 saves before stopping all three shootout attempts to win his second straight start after missing five games with an upper-body injury.
”Lately we’ve been taking it one game at a time. It’s cliche but we are,” said center Mika Zibanejad, who scored Ottawa’s lone goal. ”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.”
Anderson may be in line for another start since he has a personal three-game winning streak against the Islanders, posting a 0.67 goals-against average while stopping 94 of 96 shots.
"(Anderson was) very steady, he did a good job of pushing things to the outside and we allowed him to be the goalie," coach Paul MacLean said. "In the shootout, he showed really good patience."
It is uncertain if top-line center Jason Spezza will miss a second straight game due to an undisclosed injury as Ottawa tries to match its four-game win streak from Dec. 28-Jan. 4.
New York (30-35-10) is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years but is 4-0-1 in its last five games after beating Florida 4-2 on Tuesday night. Colin McDonald had two assists in the second period as the Islanders snapped a 1-all tie, and rookie Mike Halmo netted his first NHL goal in the final period.
”Guys have done a good job keeping each other up, keeping the spirits up even though it can be tough,” said Josh Bailey, who contributed a goal and an assist. ”When you think about last year down the stretch and how much fun it was, it’s difficult. We definitely don’t want to find ourselves here ever again, but you’ve still got a job to do.”
The Islanders have taken points in six of their last seven road games, going 4-1-2 while splitting six one-goal decisions in that span.
Both teams could use a jump-start to their struggling power-play units. The Senators are 4 for 28 over their last 11 games while the Islanders are 3 for 22 in their last seven.
The Islanders rallied from a two-goal second-period deficit to win 5-4 in the only previous meeting Nov. 1, with Frans Nielsen scoring the only goal in the shootout after he tied the score with 16:46 remaining in regulation.
The teams meet again in New York next Tuesday.