OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators are in a playoff spot for the first time since late November after a 5-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks at Canadian Tire Centre on Monday and another win by goaltender Andrew Hammond, who is 14-0-1 as a starter in the NHL.
The Senators (37-24-11) moved one point ahead of the idle Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Senators have played one fewer game than the Bruins.
Hammond, who made 29 saves, has points in his first 15 NHL games as a starter. Patrick Lalime set the record with 16 games with at least a point to start his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He went 14-0-2 in the 1996-97 season.
The Senators, 17-2-2 in their past 21 games, trailed the Bruins by 14 points on Feb. 10.
"If we took care of home ice and took pivotal points we could control on our fate," Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan, who had three assists Monday, said.
Ryan was excited at the thought of waking up Tuesday morning to see the Senators in a playoff spot.
"It's been 20-or-so games building into this," he said. "There will be a sense of accomplishment, but at the same time you can't take it for granted. Get a little rest and get ready because Boston is going to win games. Everybody is."
There was a tense moment when Sharks forward Logan Couture slid into Hammond in the third period, but Senators coach Dave Cameron said Hammond would be available when the Senators play the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Alex Chiasson's goal in third period goal at 12:11 gave the Senators a 3-2 lead. They trailed 2-1 after the second period before four third period goals.
Chiasson, battling Sharks defenseman Justin Braun in front of the net, got his stick on the shot.
"For every player, you're trying to raise your game in these kind of games,"Chiason said. "You want to be that guy that helps the team as much as you can.
"It's been a little harder for me this year, but you get the opportunity to play with some good players and you've got to make the best out of it."
Hoffman scored an empty-net goal to make it 5-2 Senators.
Hammond has defeated the Sharks twice this season.
"He’s gotten the job done," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said of Hammond. "As forwards you give him credit. He feels beatable. He does, he really does, but then come the end of the night, he's got it done. He got it done again."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan agreed.
"[Hammond has] given them a life and an energy," McLellan said. "I think it's great for him and their team and the city and for fans all over the place. Right now he's an exciting player. He's something that the whole league can rally around. We did our best to beat him twice and that wasn't enough. The way he's playing right now, when you give up four, you're probably not going to beat that team."
Pavelski and Chris Tierney scored for the Sharks (35-30-8) who have lost two straight and are 6-10-0 in their past 16 games and remained six points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead in the second period.
Zibanejad tied the game 2-2 at 2:19 of the third period on an impressive play. After Ryan pushed the puck towards the net off a faceoff in the Sharks zone, Zibanejad lifted Tierney's stick in front of the net, stripped the puck, turned and shot the puck under the crossbar.
The Senators led 1-0 after the first period on Zibanejad's 18th goal at 14:09. Ryan carried the puck into the Sharks zone on the right wing and passed it to Hoffman, who took a backhand shot towards the goal. Zibanejad was skating down the center lane against Couture and Hoffman's shot deflected off the inside of Zibanejad's left knee and into the net.
A frustrated Couture said the Sharks are a better team than they have shown for much of this season.
"It feels like another wasted night," Couture said. "We don't get the job done. There's been way too many of those this year.
"We shouldn't have been in this game. We gave up four odd-man rushes in the first. They hit a post. They had 3-on-1s, 4-on-1s, we have a 3-on-1 and we take a penalty. We're not good enough right now to compete against good teams in the NHL. "
The Sharks have nine games left and likely can't afford another loss.
"We're not dealing in the fantasy world yet," McLellan said. "We're dealing in a world where we look at numbers and we still have an opportunity. I don't know what's happening elsewhere. We didn't take care of our own business. We'll have to come and play again tomorrow. Wherever it goes, we have to play hard every night."