KANATA, Ont. – After a lengthy road trip, the Ottawa Senators have returned home.
So has their penchant for third-period offense.
Zack Smith scored two goals – his fourth and fifth in the last five games -- as Ottawa beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Monday night at Scotiabank Place. Daniel Alfredsson also had a goal and an assist for the Sens, while Craig Anderson stopped 31 of 33 shots.
Bruno Gervais and Martin St. Louis had the goals for Tampa Bay, while Steven Stamkos added a pair of assists.
Smith's recent goal streak has been a welcome addition to the Sens, who have struggled to put the puck in the net.
"The first one was just getting the puck to the net like we talked about," Smith said. "We had been having trouble with offense so we want to keep it simple and (Eric) Condra there, he's kind of a distraction. I just went in on it and got my stick up. The second one I just got off the bench, cutting hard through the middle and (Sergei) Gonchar made a nice pass to me and I had enough speed to go around the defender."
Alfredsson also acknowledged the effort that Smith and the rest of his line have been contributing.
"He's playing well," Alfredsson said. "His whole line -- 5-on-5, they're taking a bigger role and doing a great job with it. I think they complement each other really well. They're all good with the puck and they're all smart players."
Smith was also named the monthly Molson Cup winner for November. He recorded the first multi-point game (one goal, one assist) of his NHL career on Nov. 12 in Toronto (5-2 win) and his first two-goal game on Nov. 29 in Winnipeg (6-4 win).
The Sens relied on their goaltender to keep them in the game early. Anderson made a huge glove save on Matt Gilroy as he easily skated up the slot late in the first period. Smith admitted that Anderson helped to keep the team calm during those wary times.
"It's comforting for everyone to know that we have a goaltender back there that's going to keep us in games when maybe sometimes we shouldn't, and making the stops goaltenders shouldn't have to make," Smith said. "That gives us confidence that we don't have to capitalize on every single opportunity, and we stick with it, like what happened in the third today. We're going to get chances and get goals on them and win games."
It was the Lightning who struck first, as they opened the scoring in the second period when Stamkos fed the puck to Gervais, who flicked a high wrister past a screened Anderson at 13:52.
The Senators would tie things up when Smith would tip a blast from Jared Cowen from the point, lifting the puck past Roloson at 16:46.
The Lightning pulled ahead 2-1 in the third, when Stamkos capitalized on a turnover from Erik Karlsson at the blueline. Stamkos dished off to St. Louis, who found himself all alone in the offensive zone and went top shelf, blocker side at 3:35. Stamkos has 10 points in his last seven games.
But Ottawa would knot the game a second time when Anderson fed a pass to Jason Spezza, who dished off to Alfredsson. The captain's slap shot flew past a furious Roloson at 8:58, leaving the goaltender smacking his stick on the ice in frustration. Anderson's assist was his third of the season.
"It was a great heads-up play by Andy to just throw it up, and Spezza does the perfect thing to buy me some time,” Alfredsson said. "He drives to the middle and then drops, then drives right into the 'D.' So I've got time to pick my corner. That's really the only shot you have as a right-handed shot. It's above the pad but below the blocker, far side. That's all I'm really trying to do. I don't see where he is; I look up to see where the net is. I don't know if he's screened or not … it's just nice to see it go in."
Added Alfredsson: "Once we took the lead, to really not sit back and give them easy entries and really protect the middle, which we didn't do well in Dallas and we learned from that."
Lightning coach Guy Boucher was looking for more opportunities on the man-advantage, but admitted that the team missed its opportunity.
"You can't get more quality scoring chances than this," he said. "Three-on-ones, two-on-ones, open nets and we can't bury. And then the opponent in the third period gets a bounce here or there and it kills us. The power play is the difference. Last year we were 24 percent on the power play, and we had 50 more minutes of power play at this time last year. Power play was better and we had a lot more, so we'd win our games.
"At the end of game, we made a few mistakes. The guys on the ice aren't fools – they see that we miss and miss. You don't want to be scared, but you know the reality is if you miss that netting that can haunt you. We can't get more scoring chances than we have. It's impossible."
St. Louis voiced similar disappointment, but insisted that Tampa Bay isn't about to allow frustration to take over.
"We deserved better," he said. "This business is about winning games and we're not doing that right now. Does that mean we quit? No, that's adversity. Little by little, you climb your way out."