KANATA, Ont. – Ray Emery won the battle of Ottawa goaltenders past and present as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Senators 2-1 on Friday night.
Emery stopped 25 shots in his first game back at Scotiabank Place after being waived by Ottawa in 2008 -- one year after leading the franchise to its only trip to the Stanley Cup Final. He outdueled rookie Robin Lehner, who made 37 saves in third consecutive start for the Senators. Ottawa is still without starter Craig Anderson due to a hand laceration.
Emery was all smiles after beating his former team.
"It feels great," Emery said. "We're in a battle and we know they are, too. We needed that one, especially our last few games, we've had a tough time. To come out and outplay them in the first two periods, then to hunker down defensively in the third – it's a good game and I think we played it the right way.
"It's special to come back, and I have a lot of friends here. But like I said earlier, I was just trying to focus on the game."
Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell scored for the Blackhawks, with Patrick Sharp assisting on both goals. It was the second game-winning goal in as many games for Hossa, who scored twice in Wednesday's 5-4 victory against Toronto.
The Hawks now have 77 points, four more than seventh-place San Jose in the Western Conference race.
"You look back over the year – they say, 'biggest win'," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "That might have been our best game."
Milan Michalek had the lone goal for the Senators, who fell to seventh in the East with 76 points.
"I thought we ended up playing way too much defense in our end," coach Paul MacLean said. "We didn't skate really (well). Whether that's intensity or not, I don't know. But if we don't skate (well), we're not a very good team."
Chicago (35-24-7) needed a big night from Emery -- the Hawks came into Ottawa having lost three of their last four games. Injuries continue to plague the Blackhawks – the most notable being captain Jonathan Toews, who has yet to resume skating after being sidelined with an upper-body injury that has kept him out for six games.
"You look at the playoffs in the West and it's a tight race," forward Patrick Kane said. "Ottawa's been playing very well of late – we all know that. They've had a great year; it's a special team over there and a big win for us."
The Senators opened the scoring at 15:35 in the first period when Jason Spezza raced up the right wing, momentarily lost control of the puck, then regained it and fed Michalek, who beat Emery through the five-hole with a wrister from the high slot for his 29th of the season. Spezza extended his points streak to 11 games, during which he has eight goals and 14 assists. Matt Gilroy also assisted on the goal for his first point as a Senator after being acquired in a trade on Monday.
Sharp earned a penalty shot 2:18 into the second when he was hooked by Sergei Gonchar on a breakaway. He attempted to go glove side on Lehner, but the rookie nabbed the shot with his glove to preserve the lead.
"It's hard for me to say what he did, because I was so focused on the puck," Lehner said. "He got a good piece of the puck. (On the penalty shot) I saw what he was going to do there, and he hit my glove."
But the Blackhawks tied it at 5:14 during a delayed penalty. Sharp passed the puck out from behind the net, and Bickell wristed a shot past Lehner for his seventh goal of the season.
Chicago took the lead at 9:48, just 17 seconds after Gilroy was called for tripping. Sharp took a shot from the top of the right circle that Lehner stopped. But Hossa grabbed the rebound and his wraparound evaded Lehner for his fifth point in five games.
"It's a tough loss," Alfredsson said. "I think they did a good job of stretching the rink in the first 40 minutes. And I don't think until the third we kind of took command of the puck a little bit more and created more chances, but overall they were the better team."
The captain also credited his rookie goaltender for keeping the Senators in the game.
"(Lehner) gave us a chance to come back," Alfredsson said. "He kept it close and we had a couple of chances. He did everything he could, obviously. He played a great game and made some spectacular saves. We just couldn't come up with that extra goal for him."