PHILADELPHIA -- Third periods haven't been kind recently to the Ottawa Senators. They played a solid one Thursday and were rewarded with a victory.
During their skid the Senators had been outscored 8-3 in the final 20 minutes, and in four of the five games they either entered the third tied or ahead before losing each time.
"It was a similar situation this game as it has been the last [four], tied going into the third period," Greening said. "The last [four] games it's always been the opposing team getting the goal to go ahead, which has been frustrating, so it was a relief to get that. Especially on the power play, which has had some struggles of late but came up big for us in the end."
The goal came 41 seconds after Giroux was assessed a double-minor for high sticking the Senators' Mika Zibanejad. The Senators had been 3-for-27 in their previous 10 games with the man advantage.
Greening created the winning goal when he changed the Senators' breakout pattern. Rather than start with all five players regrouping and flowing out of the defensive zone together, Greening stayed near the Philadelphia blue line. It worked exactly as planned when Patrick Wiercioch split Philadelphia's Matt Read and Kimmo Timonen with a pass out of his zone to Greening, who had a clear path to the net and snapped a shot from the right circle that beat Bryzgalov over the glove.
"Most of the game we had tried a different power-play breakout where we'd put five guys back and I think they were used to that," Greening said. "So when they put me on instead of [Guillaume Latendresse], I was the one that was hanging back and trying to keep the defenseman back. Luckily the defense kind of parted and I saw an opening and Patty saw me and I got a break."
It was a break the Senators have been hoping for. They weren't in danger of slipping out of a playoff spot, but the win enabled them to stay in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the New York Islanders by a tiebreaker.
"It's something we almost felt was coming because I felt we were playing pretty good the last couple games," said Alfredsson, who closed the scoring by hitting the empty net with 6.9 seconds remaining. "We stuck with it [Thursday] and obviously it's two really important points for us. … We know there's nine games left [including Thursday] and we were still in the playoffs, but we know we have to win."
That's the same situation facing the Flyers, who lost their third straight game. And while the same seven-point deficit they were faced entering the game remains, they only have eight games to make it up if they want to extend their season into May.
"We still have eight games left," forward Simon Gagne said. "As a hockey player you still have to come in and work hard in practice and still find a way to improve. … We have to improve a lot of our game and whatever happens, who knows? We have to come prepare for every game, and play our best."
Gagne set up the Flyers' lone goal, a shorthanded score by Claude Giroux. Off a faceoff in the Philadelphia end, Gagne tipped a loose puck past the Senators' Andre Benoit and broke out through the neutral zone. He tried centering the puck to Giroux, but Chris Phillips blocked the pass. The puck came back to Gagne in the high slot, and he spun and threw a shot on net. Giroux, camped in the crease, tipped it past Lehner at 11:44.
It was the first shorthanded goal allowed by the Senators this season.
But for the third straight game, the Flyers could only manage a single goal, and their power play went 0-for-2, extending its slump to 0-for-13 in five games.
"We've got to find a way to get more pucks to the net, more traffic and a little bit more hungry than we are right now," Giroux said. "Obviously it's not getting the job done so we need to figure out something here."
The Senators figured things out early, taking a 1-0 lead on Smith's fourth goal of the season. Taking advantage of a poor Flyers line change, Marc Methot found Smith alone at the Philadelphia blue line, and he had a clear path to the net. Smith pulled the puck from his forehand to his backhand and back to his forehand to beat Bryzgalov 3:20 into the game.
"In this building you always talk about trying to weather the first seven minutes, 10 minutes," Alfredsson said. "If you can come out of that tied, you're ahead of the game. We were able to do that with the lead, so it was a perfect start for us."
Now the Senators can make the short trip to New Jersey for a game Friday at the Devils feeling better about themselves.
"When you're on a skid, you grip the stick a little harder -- that's natural," Greening said. "To get this win, hopefully it'll be a relief for guys. Doesn’t mean we can let up -- that's the furthest thing from it. The fact that guys can just go out and play should be a relief for guys."