Not only are the Ottawa Senators' best players returning to the lineup, they're doing so with a flourish.
Jason Spezza scored the go-ahead goal in his first game in nearly six weeks and the Senators won their sixth straight with a 2-1 win over the slumping Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
It was the second time Ottawa beat Boston at the TD Garden in a span of six days. Daniel Alfredsson scored a natural hat trick Monday in his second game back from a separated shoulder. He had also scored a goal in his first game back, as did Milan Michalek when he returned against St. Louis on Thursday.
Spezza, who suffered a torn MCL in mid-December, took a cross-ice pass from Alex Kovalev as he entered the offensive zone and ripped a shot past Tim Thomas with 3:21 left in the second period. It was his sixth goal of the season.
"I knew the guys were playing well, we went through a real tough stretch and we kind of got things together a bit so I wanted to play well," said Spezza, who missed 20 games with the injury.
Alfredsson also scored his 14th of the season, and sixth against Boston, and goalie Brian Elliott stopped 31 shots. The Senators strengthened their hold on fifth place in the Eastern Conference and moved six points ahead of the Bruins in the Northwest Division.
"I think we obviously got some key players back and our system is being executed very well," Elliott said. "I think teams are having trouble with that."
Daniel Paille had the lone goal for Boston, which entered play Saturday in danger of falling out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference, depending on how the Islanders and Canadiens fared in the evening.
"I feel bad for the guys in front of me," Thomas said. "I see a lot of really good effort in front of me and no reward.”
Paille, who with three goals and an assist in the last five games is one of the few Bruins creating anything offensively, tied the score when he teed up a bouncing puck from below the left circle and beat Elliott at 8:26 of the second. Alfredsson had opened the scoring for the Senators with six seconds left in the first.
"Everyone is contributing," said Alfredsson, who has five goals and nine points in his five games back.
Each team had a goal disallowed during the second. Moments after Paille scored, he set up Mark Recchi for what the veteran forward thought was the go-ahead goal. But Recchi directed the puck in with his skate and it was wiped out after a video review.
After Spezza gave Ottawa the lead, Mike Fisher deflected a shot past Thomas but it was disallowed on the ice because his stick was above the crossbar.
Recchi played in his 1,540th NHL game, tying him with former Bruin great Johnny Bucyk for 10th on the all-time list.
"Let's not pick on leadership here because there's enough going on with our team that you don't start to pick on individuals," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We have to play better as a team, that's what has to happen.”
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.
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