It can be hard to stay positive when your team is struggling as badly as the Ottawa Senators have been lately, but Paul MacLean can see the bright side.
After losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Dallas Stars Sunday afternoon, the Senators’ coach took solace in the fact that his team forced the game past overtime.
“I thought we dug in and found a way to get something out of a game,” MacLean said. “That’s a great start for our team.”
While the Senators (4-6-4) will happily take the point, they realize they’re left facing a five-game winless streak. In addition they haven’t won on home ice since October 17.
“We can’t keep doing this all season,” said Erik Karlsson. “We got a point and we played better than we have in the past so we have to take the positives out of things and (Sunday) that was it.”
Adding to their list of woes is the fact the Senators could be without starting goaltender Craig Anderson.
Anderson went down hard after being hit by Valeri Nichushkin with 1:32 gone in overtime. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he appeared to take a knee to the head.
The Ottawa goalie was able to walk around on his own by the end of the game, but MacLean said he was suffering from a stiff neck and would require further evaluation. MacLean said he expects him to miss Tuesday’s game in Columbus.
Jamie Benn scored the winner in the shootout. Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan were all stopped by Kari Lehtonen, who faced 36 shots.
Anderson faced 36 shots before Robin Lehner was forced into action. Lehner made two saves in overtime and stopped Tyler Seguin in the shootout.
“It’s obviously big to get those two (points) and start the road trip on the right foot,” said Benn. “It wasn’t an easy two points and we really didn’t help ourselves out too much. We gave up a couple, but found a way to win in the shootout.”
Antoine Roussel, Ray Whitney and Nichushkin also scored for the Stars (6-6-2), while Erik Karlsson, Ryan and Spezza had the Senators’ three goals.
The Senators tied the game with 9.6 seconds remaining in regulation when Ryan jumped on a loose puck in the slot and put it in the net.
“We rebounded which we really haven’t seen our team do in the past,” Ryan said. “We found a way to get one late to tie it. I thought the team battled and that’s all you can really ask for.”
Ottawa was outshot 19-9 in the first period, giving up numerous odd-man rushes and leaving Anderson to fend for himself.
Dallas opened the scoring at 17:03 of the first period after Whitney beat Anderson glove side. The play was a result of a Michalek turnover in the Stars end.
Nichushkin made it 2-0 when he took a saucer pass from Brenden Dillon and beat Anderson high for his first NHL goal, 30 seconds into the second period.
Ottawa cut the lead in half as Karlsson took a cross-ice pass from Ryan and caught Lehtonen moving. The Senators capped the period with a power-play goal from Spezza to make it 2-2.
“You’ve got to play with confidence,” said Spezza. “It’s so hard when you’re losing to play with confidence, but we started carrying the puck, we started making plays. If you play scared it’s a hard game to win and I think at times we’ve played scared not wanting to make mistakes.
“If you’re just worried about not making mistakes you’re going to make them.”
The Senators ran into some bad luck in the third period when Mark Borowiecki, trying to clear the puck from in front, put it in his own net to give the Stars a 3-2 lead.
“It teaches a little bit of humility,” said Borowiecki. “I thought that was my strongest game in a Sens uniform. I felt pretty confident, but it’s just going to happen. A play like that you just want to shake it off.”
MacLean said he didn’t think twice about putting Borowiecki back on the ice.
“Stuff like that is going to happen,” the Senators’ coach said. “We keep putting everybody else back on the ice when they make mistakes so we should do the same for him.”
This was the first of three games on the road for the Stars.
Notes: Attendance was 18,106. ... D Eric Gryba and D Joe Corvo were healthy scratches for the Senators. RW Erik Condra missed the game with a sprained muscle in his right leg. a The Stars’ D Kevin Connauton and LW Lane MacDermid were a healthy scratch. D Sergei Gonchar who played three seasons with the Senators was given a warm welcome by fans with a video tribute during the first intermission.