Jason Spezza snapped an 11-game goal-scoring drought by netting two first period goals and Craig Anderson stopped 34 shots as the Senators held off a late rally to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3, at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa tonight.
Spezza gave the Senators a 1-0 lead at the 55-second mark with an outstanding individual effort. Taking a pass from Sergei Gonchar at center ice, Spezza charged down the left wing side in the Carolina zone. He was able to cut around Tim Gleason and skate across the front of the Hurricanes net, beating Cam Ward as he tucked the puck around the netminder's outstretched left skate for his seventh goal of the season.
The 'Canes tied the game with 4:57 left in the opening frame. Patrick Dwyer broke into the Ottawa zone and skated along the right wing before snapping a shot from the outside of the right faceoff dot, beating Anderson top shelf for his third goal of the year to make it a 1-1 contest.
The Senators grabbed the lead in the final two minutes of the first, and it was Spezza that would again do the damage. Gonchar held the puck at the right point with Ottawa on the power play, and appeared as if he was going to unleash a shot. Instead, the defenseman spotted Spezza open in the left faceoff circle, and fooled everyone in Carolina uniforms with a perfect pass. Spezza accepted the Gonchar offering, had time to tee up the puck and beat Ward before the goalie could recover and get over to cover the post. Spezza's second of the night and eighth of the season was also the 200th of his NHL career, and gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead after one period.
The only goal of the middle frame wouldn't come until the latter stages. Just as a Senators power play was expiring, David Rundblad's shot from the right point eluded Ward through a Zenon Konopka screen in front. The 21-year-old rookie's first NHL goal with just 14 seconds left in the second staked Ottawa to a 3-1 lead heading into the third.
Although there were glorious scoring chances for both sides in the early stages of the third -- Carolina's Jussi Jokinen found himself to the right of Anderson with an open net and backhanded the puck off the post, and the Sens' Milan Michalek ripped a wrist shot that beat Ward but clanked solidly off of the post -- neither team could take advantage.
Good fortune would smile on the Hurricanes, though, at the 6:46 mark. Joni Pitkanen's shot attempt from the left point was flubbed but hit Senators' defender Chris Phillips in front of the net and banked directly to Eric Staal, who quickly beat Anderson to draw Carolina to within one at 3-2. It was a rare moment of a bounce going Staal's way in a season of frustration for the Hurricanes' captain, with his fifth goal of the year being his first in the last eight contests, and just the second in his previous 19 outings.
Ottawa would regain the two-goal lead when Kaspars Daugavins sent a backhand pass to Zack Smith in front of the 'Canes net, and Smith was able to send a shot past Ward as he was falling to the ice. Smith's fourth of the year provided an insurance goal with the 4-2 lead, some space the Senators would need.
Carolina appeared to get back to within a goal with just over 6:30 left in regulation when Anderson pounced on a rebound, and officials thought he had it smothered. The puck trickled through the goaltender and Ruutu knocked it into the net, but it came just moments after the whistle was blown to stop play.
With 3:11 left, the Hurricanes did pull closer. Chad LaRose made a strong move to the net out of the right wing corner and jammed a backhander on Anderson, and Alexei Ponikarovsky poked the rebound past Anderson to make it a 4-3 contest.
Smith high-sticked Derek Joslin with less than two minutes left, and the 'Canes basically played the final 1:10 with a two-man advantage when they pulled Ward for an extra attacker. Skating six-on-four with their eighth power play of the night, Carolina could not net the equalizer.
Erik Karlsson of the Senators assisted on both of the Spezza goals, and the leading scorer among NHL defensemen now leads the League with 20 helpers.
Ottawa improved to 11-10-2, including 6-4-1 at home.
Despite having played the most games of any NHL team (25), the Hurricanes dropped to 8-13-4, with an awful road mark of 3-7-2. Carolina's 20 points is good for only 14th place in the Eastern Conference, and their 83 goals allowed is the highest total in the League.
The 'Canes had put head coach Paul Maurice's job in jeopardy recently, when they were shutout in back-to-back games on November 16 (Montreal Canadiens 4-0) and November 18 (Buffalo Sabres, 1-0). The club then recovered to win their next two games, but have since slumped again with an 0-2-1 record in their last three. Let the rumors begin.