OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators might want to ask their dads to hang around a little longer.
After being involved in 26 one-goal games, they won both stops on their annual “Father’s Trip” by a combined score of 9-3, including a 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
That win pulled the Senators (31-19-6) to within two points of the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division, while Ottawa has three games in hand.
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The Senators return home Sunday to face the Winnipeg Jets (27-29-5), who lent them a helping hand by defeating the Canadiens 3-1 Saturday afternoon. The Jets have their noses pressed up against the glass as they look in at the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Senators (twice) and Jets scored empty-net goals on Saturday to alter the look of what had been close games in the final minutes.
“We’ve had three really, really strong games, and more of the same tonight,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said after the victory in Montreal. “Really strong with our gap, not giving the other team a whole lot, and getting enough offense. This time of the year, you’re probably not going to see the 7-6 games anymore and you’re going to get the 2-1 games. We were comfortable with that and played well.”
While Winnipeg is 10-9-5 in one goal games, the Senators are even better when the going gets close, compiling a 13-7-6 in games decided by just one score.
More significantly, the Senators are 5-1-1 in the second of back-to-back games this season. The Jets are 4-4-2 on the back half of two in a row.
“We’ve got a big game (Sunday) and then we’ve got four more on the road,” winger Mark Stone said Saturday night, after leading the Senators with a goal and four assists. “We’ve got to take full advantage of these games in hand we have on the other teams.”
The Senators almost let two points slip away on Saturday, when they blew a two-goal lead and fell behind 3-2 early in the third. But they were able to bounce back for their fourth victory in five games.
“That’s just the maturity we’re gaining over time,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “Collectively, the team has grown dramatically in having poise, in executing under pressure. That’s what mental toughness is.”
The Jets have now grabbed five of a possible six points since ending a four-game losing streak earlier this week.
“We’ve been playing some good hockey,” said winger Mathieu Perreault, who scored the winner in Montreal. “We’ve been a lot more physical as of late and it changes everything for us. It creates space on the ice and teams get rid of the puck a little bit sooner than they normally would, and it creates tons of room for us.”
The Senators have not revealed their goaltending plans for Sunday. Craig Anderson made 34 saves in Toronto, but Mike Condon picked up his fifth shutout of the season against the Devils in New Jersey on Thursday.
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck made 19 saves in Montreal, his sixth consecutive appearance.