With their top goal scorer out and their No. 1 goaltender limited to a reserve role, the Ottawa Senators managed to give their faint playoff hopes a much-needed boost in their most recent game.
Bobby Ryan is also expected to sit out Tuesday night, and Craig Anderson will likely serve as a backup netminder again for the Senators’ visit to the Florida Panthers.
Needing a significant push to get into the postseason, Ottawa (29-29-13) took one small step Monday by ending a season-high six-game skid with a 4-3 shootout win in Tampa Bay. Jason Spezza and goaltender Robin Lehner helped their club come away with two points after it blew a two-goal lead in regulation.
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"It’s been a long time coming for us. It’s nice to get a win. We haven’t had that feeling in a while," Spezza said. "Obviously, we were down. It’s been a frustrating stretch of games here and difficult emotionally for us to lose that many hockey games at this time of the year. A win could give us some confidence. Now we’ve got to go do it again (Tuesday)."
Lehner made 35 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts from the Lightning in his sixth consecutive start in place of Anderson, who has been dealing with an upper-body injury. Ryan was scratched from Tuesday’s game after re-aggravating a lower-body injury in a 3-1 loss to Dallas on Saturday.
Coach Paul MacLean said before Monday’s game that Ryan is expected to be re-evaluated when the team returns home from Florida.
Erik Karlsson tried to help the Senators make up for the loss of their 23-goal scorer with one goal and two assists in the win over the Lightning. Spezza also scored in regulation.
Karlsson and Spezza will try to pick up their team again while sending the Panthers to their 16th loss in 21 games and fourth in a row. Florida (26-38-8) finished 1-3-0 on a four-game Western trip after a 6-2 loss to Anaheim on Sunday.
"We’ve got to be smarter. We’ve got to continue to learn from all these games. Otherwise, there’s no value to what the young guys are going through," interim coach Peter Horachek said. "They are hard lessons. You’ve got to have some thick skin."
While dropping all but out of playoff contention, the Panthers have given up 3.81 goals per game during a 6-14-1 stretch.
They managed to keep the Senators off the scoreboard for the final two periods in the most recent matchup Dec. 19 in Ottawa and rallied late for a 4-2 win. Florida scored its final two goals in the final 2:32 with Tom Gilbert netting the tiebreaker.
The Senators scored a combined seven goals while winning the other two meetings this season, including a 4-2 victory in Florida on Dec. 3. Ryan scored the team’s final goal in that victory and assisted on the opening score in a 3-2 home victory Nov. 9.
Clarke MacArthur had a goal in that game, and has nine points (three goals, six assists) during a six-game streak against the Panthers.