The Ottawa Senators had plenty to celebrate on Tuesday.
The night started with Chris Phillips’ No. 4 being raised to the rafters in a pre-game ceremony.
Then, Craig Anderson made 23 saves to pick up his 200th win with the franchise as Ottawa beat the Buffalo Sabres 7-4. Anderson moved into a tie with Tuukka Rask for 40th all-time in wins with 287.
“It proves that I’ve been here a long time, that’s all that really says,” said Anderson with a smile. “We’ve had some good teams, we’ve had some bad teams here and we’ve kind of gone on the roller coaster ride. To get to that accomplishment is great and I’ll be looking to hit the next one the next time I get in there.”
Artem Anisimov and Jean-Gabriel Pageau had two goals apiece for the Senators (21-28-11), who won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 20th.
The Sabres jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on a pair of goals by Brandon Montour. But the Senators scored four goals in three minutes 29 seconds to turn a two-goal deficit into a 4-2 lead at the first intermission.
“They just kept coming,” said Montour of the Senators four first-period goals. “I think we needed to find a way to get through that period in a sense and obviously we didn’t do that.”
Anisimov scored a pair, while Vladislav Namestnikov and Drake Batherson also scored in the opening frame. Pageau added two more goals and Anthony Duclair scored an empty-net goal to snap a 22-game scoreless drought.
“There were some spirits,” said Pageau. “After Batherson scored with 4:44 left I thought that was pretty special. For sure everyone’s going to remember that.”
Pageau likely won’t forget the night either as he had two assists to go with his two goals.
Kyle Okposo and Victor Olofsson also scored while Carter Hutton made 33 saves for the Sabres (27-25-8), who saw their three-game winning streak come to an end.
“Overall very, very disappointing when you look at the start and the table that we had set and how we let that go on our own,” said Sabres coach Ralph Krueger. “We’re very disappointed right now with the result.”
The Sabres made it a one-goal game early in the second as Okposo scored off an Ottawa turnover when he crashed into the Senators net. Ottawa regained its two-goal lead on Pageau’s 23rd of the season, but it was short lived as Olofsson beat Anderson short side on the power play.
Pageau scored his second of the night at the 12-minute mark on the power play in the third period to give the Senators some breathing room, while Duclair added a short-handed empty net goal.
“Pageau’s been good all year,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “He plays hard, plays hard on the penalty kill, power play, hits guys, plays against the other guys’ top players and he was exceptional.”
Prior to the game Phillips’ No. 4 was raised to the rafters. He is just the second modern day Senator to earn the honour, joining Daniel Alfredsson.
Alfredsson, along with former teammates Wade Redden, who spoke, Shawn McEachern, Igor Kravchuk and many more were on hand to honour the defenceman.
Phillips was Ottawa’s first player to play his entire career in a Senators uniform. He holds the franchise record for games played, 1,179, and his 114-playoff games rank second in team history behind Alfredsson.
“Incredible,” said Phillips of seeing the banner go up. “It was kind of a finality with my hockey career and maybe that’s the most emotional part of it. It’s done now for sure. To be honoured alongside (Alfredsson), long history of playing together, being great friends. When I look at, I don’t know what the number is but how many guys in the league even have their number retired. To be in that small company I’m really at a loss for words. It’s a really special feeling.”
Curtis Lazar was the lone Sabre to watch the presentation. Lazar, drafted by the Senators in 2013, lived with Phillips and his family while playing in Ottawa.
“For whatever reason I had just assumed the whole team was going to be there and hadn’t looked until I turned back and got a pretty good chuckle out of that,” said Phillips. “To see him there and as I said that’s the type of kid that he is. Strong character.”
The Senators made their first move in anticipation of the trade deadline as D Dylan DeMelo was traded to Winnipeg in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2020 draft. Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin picked up his 80th career point with an assist Tuesday night.