OTTAWA -- For a rookie trying to make his mark in the NHL, making a giveaway that leads to the game's opening goal for the opposing team can have a crushing effect the rest of the night.
But defenseman Michael Sauer not only shook it off, he completely put it out of his mind -- and by doing so, he had a game he will never forget.
Sauer's first career goal with 5:19 to play was the game-winner as the New York Rangers erased three Ottawa leads before finally winning 5-3 Thursday night at Scotiabank Place.
Sauer, playing in his 28th NHL game, fed the puck right in front of his own net to allow Mike Fisher to open the scoring on the power play only 2:54 into the game.
But when given a late-game power play opportunity of his own, Sauer made amends and then some by scoring through a crowd on a point shot to break a 3-3 tie.
"You've got to have a short memory, things happen," said Sauer, a 23-year-old native of St. Cloud, Minn., who happens to share a birthday with Sidney Crosby. "It was early in the game so I had to regroup and get going again and make sure I stayed focused because there was a lot of game left to play. To finish like that, it makes it a lot sweeter."
Derek Stepan, Ruslan Fedotenko and Erik Christensen took turns tying the game and Brandon Dubinsky iced it with an empty-netter for the Rangers (17-12-1), who have won three of their last four and five of seven despite missing injured forwards Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal.
Even more impressive is that New York improved its League-best record on the road to 11-4-0, but don't ask coach John Tortorella to explain that oddity.
"I don't know," Tortorella said. "I can come up with a real fancy answer for you, but I don't know."
Mike Fisher scored twice and Jason Spezza added another for the struggling Senators (12-16-2), who have only three wins in their last 13 games.
Brian Elliott made 23 saves, but would probably like to have another crack at Christensen's game-tying goal early in the third period, a shot from a nearly impossible angle that beat him on the short side.
"It's tough when the puck's kind of battling you all night," Elliott said. "It hits the side of the net and pops in that little space. It's a tough part of the game and you just have to let it go and not worry about it too much, it's not going to happen very often. It was bad puck luck."
After giving up three third-period goals to the Rangers, the Senators have now been outscored 39-19 in the final period this season, a stat that surprised Ottawa forward Nick Foligno.
"It's alarming a little bit," Foligno said. "Third periods are when games are won, so we need to be a bit more resilient and dig a little bit deeper. That comes from within our room."
Henrik Lundqvist made a number of key saves to give his team a chance to stay in the game long enough to win it, finishing with 24 stops.
Both teams had testy coaches prior to the game.
Senators coach Cory Clouston called out mercurial right wing Alex Kovalev, seeking more consistency from him and wondering what effect his sometimes uninspired play has on his teammates. Kovalev played only 9:45 on a fourth line with Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin for most of the game with time on the top power-play unit, but he was once again a non-factor, running his pointless streak to six games.
But Kovalev is not alone -- most of the Senators' star offensive players are simply not producing, especially captain Daniel Alfredsson who ran his own pointless skid to a career-worst nine games.
However, Fisher's two goals snapped his five-game skid and Sergei Gonchar ended an eight-game drought with an assist.
Meanwhile, Tortorella wanted his team to build on what he felt was a strong third period in Sunday's home loss to the Senators with a strong start Thursday.
Except the opposite happened as Michal Rozsival was whistled for high-sticking Alfredsson at 1:33 of the first, and Fisher capitalized with his seventh of the season at 2:54, thanks to Sauer's giveaway. Stepan tied it at 4:40 on the Rangers' first shot of the game.
A Dubinsky roughing minor near the end of the first cost the Rangers at the start of the second when Spezza scored his seventh of the season and first in nine games off a great Erik Karlsson feed at 34 seconds. The Rangers again got the equalizer very quickly as Fedotenko one-timed a Marian Gaborik feed under the crossbar at 1:43.
Fisher put the Senators ahead again with a breakaway goal at 8:47 of the second, and the Rangers tied it a third time when Christensen's sharp-angled shot squeaked between Elliott and the near post for his fifth of the season at 3:30 of the third.
That set the stage for Sauer's moment -- his point shot went through traffic and past Elliott. Dubinsky added an empty-netter for insurance
"It's something I'm always going to remember," Sauer said. "At every level you always remember your first one. It's great that it was a game-winning goal, especially at that point in the game when it's that tight and everyone's pressing, it's definitely exciting."
And more than enough to wipe away the memory of how the game began.
|PPG - Mike Fisher (8) ASST: Nick Foligno (6)|
1 - 0 OTT
|Derek Stepan (7) ASST: Marian Gaborik (8)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Jason Spezza (7) ASST: Erik Karlsson (10), Sergei Gonchar (11)|
2 - 1 OTT
|Ruslan Fedotenko (5) ASST: Marian Gaborik (9), Michal Rozsival (8)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Mike Fisher (9) ASST: Nick Foligno (7), Chris Campoli (5)|
3 - 2 OTT
|Erik Christensen (5) ASST: Michal Rozsival (9), Steve Eminger (3)|
3 - 3 Tie
|PPG - Michael Sauer (1) ASST: Brandon Prust (7), Sean Avery (13)|
4 - 3 NYR
|EN - Brandon Dubinsky (13) ASST: NONE|
5 - 3 NYR
|Michal Rozsival Hi-sticking against Daniel Alfredsson|
|Alex Frolov Boarding against Chris Campoli|
|Nick Foligno Tripping against Michal Rozsival|
|Matt Carkner Misconduct (10 min) against Derek Boogaard|
|Derek Boogaard Fighting (maj) against Matt Carkner|
|Matt Carkner Fighting (maj) against Derek Boogaard|
|Brandon Dubinsky Roughing against Erik Karlsson|
|Chris Phillips Slashing against Marian Gaborik|
|Filip Kuba Interference against Erik Christensen|
|Michal Rozsival Hooking against Nick Foligno|
|Chris Neil Charging against Ryan Callahan|