For the first time in a long time the Ottawa Senators are having fun and picking up wins at the same time.
The Senators defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 Monday night on the back of a 37-save performance by Craig Anderson.
In addition to solid goaltending, Ottawa is getting contributions from its rookies, who are bringing some much-needed enthusiasm to a team that didn’t have much to celebrate last season.
Rookie Maxime Lajoie opened the scoring for Ottawa (3-2-1) in the second while rookie Brady Tkachuk, Mikkel Boedker and Zack Smith scored in the final period after heading into the third tied 1-1.
“The fun is watching our young guys step up and contributing at a rapid rate right at the moment,” said Anderson. “It’s fun watching these kids go out there and have a blast.”
Despite an inexperienced lineup, the Senators aren’t willing to back down.
“We were getting lot of chances and we went after it,” said Matt Duchene, who had two assists. “That’s going to be our mentality all season. Even if we’re down a goal we’re going after it. We’re not going to try and not lose because that’s the worst thing you can do and I thought we did a really good job going after it.”
John Klingberg scored the lone goal for the Stars (3-2-0). Ben Bishop made 21 saves, taking the first regulation-time loss (9-1-4) of his career against the Senators.
“I don’t think it was a terrible game, but obviously it’s two points you wish you would have had,” Bishop said.
“That’s a tough streak to lose, but eventually it was going to happen. It was a good run. Would have been nice to get the two points, but we’ll have to get them next time.”
This marked the first road game of the season for the Stars after playing their first four at home.
Ottawa is now 2-1-0 through three of its season-high five-game home stand. The Senators are back in action Saturday when they host the Montreal Canadiens.
With the game tied 1-1 the Senators took the lead early in the third as Dylan DeMelo put a shot on goal and Tkachuk, right in front, redirected it past Bishop.
Ottawa made it 3-1 midway through the period as Duchene, from behind the net, made a no-look pass to Boedker, who one-timed it past Bishop for his first with the Senators.
“We did a lot of really good things,” said Duchene. “I thought we were good in the first, but we upped it after that and thought we deserved the win.”
Looking to cut the lead, the Stars pulled their goalie with more than seven minutes left, and tried it again with over four minutes remaining, but Anderson was solid.
“I just wanted to put a little more urgency and give ourselves a chance,” said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. “I thought the pulled goalie situation actually worked, we just didn’t score the rest of the night.”
Smith scored an empty-net goal with 1:37 remaining to seal the win.
The Senators pushed back in the second and tied the game 1-1 in the final minute of the period when Lajoie picked up his team-leading fourth goal in just his sixth game by showing plenty of patience and beating Bishop glove side. The 20-year-old had just one goal in 56 games in the American Hockey League last season.
“It’s hard to explain, I’m not too sure what’s going on right now,” said Lajoie. “I guess I’m just at the right spot at the right time. Guys are making plays for me so it’s been nice.”
Montgomery wasn’t happy with his team allowing a goal that late in the period.
“We didn’t manage the game well even in the second when I thought they outplayed us a bit,” said Montgomery. “We’re in great shape and then the first two odd-man rushes we give up all game are in the last minute and 15 seconds and we have our best players out there.”
The Stars jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Klingberg, but could have had more if not for Anderson as Dallas, which outshot the Senators 14-9.
Notes: During the first TV timeout the Senators honoured Ray Emery, who died July 15th. He was 35. Emery was originally drafted by Ottawa (99th overall in 2001) and spent parts of five seasons with Senators, leading them to the Stanley Cup final in 2007. Emery sits fourth in wins and fifth in games played with Ottawa.