Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has been most impressed with is how his first-year coach, Paul MacLean, has been able to push all the right emotional buttons with his team.
After watching his Senators give away a 3-0 lead Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, MacLean did his best to keep his team on the right path, and his players responded with a 4-3 shootout victory at Wells Fargo Center.
The victory gave the Senators 90 points, four more than the eighth-place Washington Capitals and the ninth place Buffalo Sabres, pending their games later Saturday.
The Flyers moved within three points of fourth-place Pittsburgh heading into the teams' big game at Consol Energy Center on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC).
Jason Spezza led the Senators with the game-opening goal and then scoring the shootout winner. Alfredsson had a goal and an assist, and Chris Neil also had a goal. Goalie Craig Anderson made 36 saves, and then denied the Flyers' final two skaters in the shootout, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere.
Danny Briere had a pair of assists, and Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier and Braydon Coburn scored for the Flyers in the second period as they rallied to tie the game after 40 minutes. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who allowed three goals on the first nine shots he faced in the first period, stopped the last 20 he faced through overtime.
The first 40 minutes were two entirely different games, as the Senators took the early lead only to watch the Flyers battle back in the second. It was during the second intermission that Alfredsson said his coach said exactly the right things.
"He knows when to be really hard on us and when to get us going again," said Alfredsson. "After the second period it would have been easy to come in and give it to us. He directed our energy in the right, positive way and got us going. Calmed us down, which is probably what we needed the most. We regrouped and played a really solid third, created some really good chances."
MacLean said his talk was more about reminding his players to play their game.
"We wanted to make sure we didn't just defend, that we played to win and that we have to go out and give ourselves an opportunity to win the hockey game," he said. "To do that, we have to establish our game. We have to try to establish a forecheck, we have to dictate some of the play in their end of the rink and not just play in our end. We tried to do those things and the game went back and forth in the third again. I thought for the most part we did a good job of playing defense in their end."
Both teams had chances to score in third. Each team failed to score on a power play, and Bobrovsky made an outstanding left-pad save on Spezza from right in front with 1:20 remaining in regulation.
Briere said as bad as the first period was for his team, he said the third is the one he would do over.
"I don't know if we were too satisfied with just getting there and coming back," he said. "We didn't attack. We just sat back and … I felt the same thing from them. Both teams were just hanging on to get the point and get to overtime. That's the period I wish we could play again."
Overtime was a different story as the Flyers carried the play. Their best chance came when Briere hit the right post with 2:36 left. Briere also drew a penalty on the Senators' Filip Kuba with 48.6 seconds left, but they couldn't take advantage.
Ottawa took advantage of a pair of Flyers turnovers in the first period to take their first-period lead. After Spezza scored his 32nd of the season 6:04 into the game, a failed clear by the Flyers' Eric Wellwood led to Alfredsson scoring his 27th to make it 2-0, and then a Bobrovsky clearing attempt less than three minutes later ended up with Chris Neil's wrist shot from left circle trickling between his pads.
"Definitely he wants the third one back," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "After that he gave us an opportunity to win. He stood tall. There was a breakaway in there, they jumped somebody in behind us and he made a huge save (on Kyle Turris with 1:23 left in the second), some other big saves as well. Bob slammed the door after the first period and gave us an opportunity to get a point and try to get two."
The Flyers started their rally in a tough way, as a Brayden Schenn shot bounced off Wayne Simmonds's and into the net. The goal was Simmonds' 26th -- and likely most painful -- of the season.
He immediately left the ice bleeding, but after receiving what Simmonds said was "six or seven" stitches around the bridge of his nose, he returned about six minutes of game time later wearing a visor.
It's the second time Simmonds has been hit in the face by a puck. During pre-game warm-ups Feb. 16, he was hit in the mouth by a puck that bounced off the crossbar and needed 25 stitches in his upper and lower lips.
"He's tough," said Laviolette. "He goes to the net, he get into the dirty areas and the hard areas. I told him it's a hard way to 30."
Couturier made it 3-2 when he broke into the Ottawa end and faked a shot, freezing Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar long enough for Couturier to drive past him and get to the net. He shoved the puck under Senators goalie Craig Anderson as the net was being pushed off its moorings. The goal initially was waived off, but after a lengthy review, it was determined the puck crossed the goal line before the net was completely lifted off the pegs that hold it in place.
The Flyers capped the comeback when Coburn tipped a Briere pass past Anderson with 2:43 left in the period.
After their coach settled them down in the third, the Senators did enough over the rest of the game to earn the two points.
"We had a momentum swing in the second period we didn't handle very well," said Anderson. "We regrouped after the second, came out in the third and played a really solid third period. That's the reason we got the point and won it in the shootout."
The Flyers won't have much time to worry about what happened Saturday as they'll have to face a rested Penguins team likely still angry from the teams' last meeting, when the Flyers scored with 0.9 seconds left in overtime to snap the Pens' 11-game win streak.
"I think it's important to be able to play our best hockey against them," said Flyers center Claude Giroux. "It's going to be a big game for us and especially on the road. We've been doing a good job on the road. We have mot make sure we're doing the same thing (Sunday)."
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