Senators have reason for optimism against Lightning

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Already owning wins over both Florida teams this season, the Ottawa Senators will look to continue that success when they open a five-game trip against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

For a team that grids near the basement of the Atlantic Division, Ottawa has had some success against the Florida teams: The Senators are 1-2-0 against the Lightning and 1-0-0 versus the Panthers. They visit the Panthers on Thursday.

The highlight against the Lightning occurred Dec. 11 in Ottawa in a 4-0 victory, which featured a 25-save shutout by Anton Forsberg and a hat trick by captain Brady Tkachuk — both career firsts.


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That was during Ottawa’s best stretch of play this season — five wins in six games over Carolina, Colorado, New Jersey, Tampa Bay and the Panthers, who were drubbed 8-2 on home ice by the Senators.

Ottawa coach D.J. Smith’s bunch is 10-11-4 since trouncing division-leading Florida and currently trudging through a 3-5-1 stretch after Saturday’s 2-1 home loss against the last-place Montreal Canadiens.

“We had bad pinches and some (players) not covering guys,” Smith said of the setback against the lowly division rival. “There were a lot of things that were good, but offensively we just weren’t very good.”

In his season debut after preseason shoulder surgery, center Colin White scored the only goal for Ottawa. Matt Murray allowed two Montreal tallies on 32 shots in his first start since sustaining a lower-body injury after being hit by St. Louis’ Oskar Sundqvist on Feb. 15.


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Forsberg’s shutout of the Lightning on Dec. 11 is one of only two times coach Jon Cooper’s high-powered attack has been blanked this season. The other was at the New York Rangers, also 4-0, on Jan. 2.

While Smith leaned on Tkachuk in the December win over Tampa Bay, Cooper also turned to his leader Saturday night in its 3-2 Stadium Series win over the host Nashville Predators at the NFL’s Nissan Stadium.

Captain Steven Stamkos had a hand in all three Tampa Bay markers — assisting on power-play goals by Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point – before netting the game-winner on the only even-strength tally in the open-air matchup.

Not only was Cooper impressed by the performance of his team’s leading goal scorer but also by the overall experience of the first-ever game outside in the Music City.


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“I know one team wins the game, but I don’t know how anybody in the end can leave on a downer after the event that was put on,” Cooper said. “It was exceptional.”

In all, 68,619 fans turned out.

“It definitely doesn’t feel like Game 51, I tell you that,” added Cooper, whose crew owns a four-game winning streak. “If these events are for the fans, the league hit it out of the park. What a show.”

Added Stamkos: “It lived up to all the hype that you hear from some of the guys who have played in these games. You never understand it until you play in one yourself.”

In its other two clashes with the Senators, Tampa Bay was victorious at Ottawa 5-3 on Nov. 6 and 2-1 at home on Dec. 16.

–Field Level Media



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