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Ottawa Senators' Mika Zibanejad, centre, celebrates a first period goal with teammate Mike Hoffman as San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture (39) skates away during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Monday, March 23, 2015.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

It was The Biggest Game of the Year – the Sequel. Or maybe it was Vol. VIII.

Whatever, for a city suffering chilblains and cabin fever, the Senators climb through March has been the equivalent of someone throwing another log on the Centennial Flame.

Unbelievably, the Ottawa Senators, written off more times than Blackberry, were about to play the "game in hand" they have held over the Boston Bruins for what felt like months. A win – even an overtime loss – and the Senators could finally catch and leapfrog over the Bruins to sit in the eighth, and final, playoff spot in a season declared lost back in December.

They got that point, and another, with a spirited 5-2 come-from-behind victory over the visiting San Jose Sharks.

If they can hold onto the playoff spot, rallying from 14 points back would mean they would have pulled off the greatest late-in-the-season comeback since the Stanley Cup was last raised in Canada. The 1993-94 New York Islanders had made up 12 points in the dying weeks to claim their spot in the postseason.

Heading into Monday's match against the Sharks, the Senators had compiled an astonishing 13-1-1 record over their last 15 games – largely on the strength of the play off minor-league goaltending call-up Andrew "Hamburglar" Hammond.

The Sharks, fighting for a playoff spot themselves, have an even tougher task, sitting eight points back of Winnipeg Jets for eighth place in the Western Conference.

"We're in desperation mode," San Jose head coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. "Every minute, every point is important to us."

"If you ain't desperate at some point," Canadian comic Jim Carrey likes to say, "you ain't interesting."

And this match was certainly interesting from the opening faceoff. Both teams playing hard to get to that final playoff reward, both with excellent chances early on only to be foiled by either great goaltending or great posts.

Ottawa had by far the better of the play and should have been ahead 1-0 when Mark Stone set up Kyle Turris, the NHL's second star of the week, with a cross-crease feed that left an empty net back of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi. Turris, however, clanged his shot off the post.

Ottawa did go ahead when Mike Hoffman drifted a Frisbee-like backhand in on Niemi and the puck deflected off Ottawa forward Mika Zibanejad's knee. Following review, the goal was allowed to stand to the delight of the 18,193 fans at Canadian Tire Centre.

Ottawa, despite Toronto's misgivings, might be the best underdog story hockey has seen for some time. Two best forwards from last season – Clark MacArthur injured, captain Jason Spezza traded to Dallas – gone, starting goaltender and backup goaltender lost to injury, coach fired, general manager ill, most fans (admit it) having given up on the team before Christmas.

The story that most charms, of course, has been the play of Hammond, who carried his remarkable 13-0-1 record into the game. Still undefeated in regular time, Hammond has been the key to Ottawa's phoenix-like rise from the December ashes.

Hammond only got into action because of an injury to starting goalie Craig Anderson and then a concussion suffered by backup Robin Lehner in a collision with teammate Clark MacArthur, who also has not played since the mid-February accident.

"I could be up for the MVP," MacArthur quipped earlier in the day. Since he took Lehner and himself out of action, the team record has been 14-1-1.

Hammond's incredible run got in trouble in the second period, as increasingly the Sharks came to life and took back some control of the game.

With San Jose pressing on the power play, forward Joe Pavelski lunged at a Brent Burns rebound and stabbed the puck past Hammond, the ensuing crash of players driving puck and Hamburglar deep in the Ottawa net.

Thirty seconds later, the Sharks went ahead on a broken Ottawa play in the San Jose end, which allowed for an odd-man rush that ended with Chris Tierney clipping a bouncing puck past Hammond.

It was the last goal Hammond would allow, though there would be times in the remaining time where it could fairly be asked if it was his enormous skill or outrageous luck holding matters together.

It took a remarkable heads-up play in the third period by Zibanejad to get the Senators back into the game. He deftly lifted the stick of Tierney, who thought he had safely corralled the puck in front of Niemi, turned and fired the puck high into the net for his second goal of the night and 19th of the year.

Alex Chiasson then put the Senators ahead again when he managed to get his stick on a rebound of a Mark Stone shot and poke the puck past Niemi.

Moments later the Senators came in on a three-on-one break and Jean-Gabriel Pageau worked a perfect give-pass-and-shoot with Erik Karlsson. The rookie, Hoffman, finished off the night with a goal in the Sharks' empty net, his 26th of the year.

The Senators had a 5-2 win, two points – and eighth place, for the moment.

"It's pretty much 'win or you're done' this time of year," said young San Jose centre Logan Couture, who played his junior hockey in Ottawa.

In other words, it's going to be desperate from here on out.

And sure to be interesting.