The veteran defenseman celebrated his 1,000th regular-season NHL game by scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner, as the Ottawa Senators held off the Nashville Predators 4-3 on Thursday to end a seven-game losing streak.
"It's hard to sum up in a couple of words," Phillips said. "It was fun and exciting to be in my 1,000th game, and then to top it off with a couple of goals -- you can't write that."
The goals were the 61st and 62nd of Phillips' career.
"It took him a thousand games (to realize) that he's an offensive defenseman," coach Paul MacLean said with a laugh.
Phillips, who has played his entire career with Ottawa after the Senators chose him with the first pick in the 1996 NHL Draft, had not scored a goal in 54 games this season. But he got his first of the season at 7:50 of the second period to give Ottawa a 2-1 lead, then scored what proved to be the winner when he fired the rebound of Filip Kuba's shot past Pekka Rinne with 6:25 left in regulation for a power-play goal.
That one gave the Senators a 4-2 lead and enabled them to survive Martin Erat's sixth-attacker goal with 10 seconds remaining.
Phillips was the on the ice looking for a hat trick in the dying minutes of the third, but was unable to hit the empty net -- not that he was disappointed about the lack of a third goal.
"(During the timeout), when I saw the clipboard out, I said, ‘It better be a play to get me the puck,'" Phillips said jokingly. "But it wasn't about that. We wanted to finish the job, and it was fun. Everything turned out great tonight. It was a hard fought game against a top team, and we played the way we needed to play."
Jason Spezza also scored twice and Alex Auld, making his first start since Dec. 30, made 24 saves for Ottawa. Rinne stopped 25 shots in his first regulation loss since Jan. 5 -- he had been 11-0-1 since a 4-1 loss to Dallas.
"(Auld) played real good," Spezza said. "That can't go understated. He was in a tough position. He hasn't played a lot and he really stepped up for us and played solid."
Auld, who relieved Craig Anderson on Tuesday against St. Louis in a 3-1 loss, was grateful for the opportunity and a chance to build a bit of rhythm.
"It's really nice to get back in there, and to get back-to-back games in a way," Auld said. "It's good for me – it's been a lot time since I've had that. I felt good; I felt comfortable. I was seeing the puck, and was just focused on finding the puck all the time."
The loss dropped Nashville into third place in the Central Division and fifth in the West. Predators coach Barry Trotz wasn't happy with his team's lack of intensity.
"That was an All-Star format there. It was a real easy game to play," he said. "If we're going to win in this building against a desperate team you can't play that way. We're going to have to play a lot harder -- make them defend a little bit against us and make them take the puck off us."
Ottawa opened the scoring when Spezza fired a wrister over Rinne's blocker at 4:46 of the opening period for his first goal since Jan. 17. The Sens hadn't scored the first goal in game since Jan. 12 against the New York Rangers.
Nashville rookie Gabriel Bourque tied it at 18:46 when he snapped a shot that beat Auld for his second of the season.
Phillips got his first of the night when he took a feed from Bobby Butler and ripped a shot from just inside the blue line past Rinne for his first goal since Feb. 26, 2011. Butler earned his second assist of the night. Patrik Hornqvist tied it at 12:40 when he deflected Ryan Suter's point shot past Auld with rookie Jim O'Brien sitting out an elbowing penalty. It was Hornqvist's eighth point (four goals, four assists) in eight games.
The Senators have allowed five power-play goals in their last five games.
But Ottawa went ahead to stay when Spezza scored off a power-play scramble at 18:55 -- it was his 22nd goal of the season.
"We talk a lot this week; we haven't started very well lately," Spezza said. "We were fortunately to get the first goal, and it's a lot easier to play with a lead. We saw the product of that tonight."
Mike Fisher, who returned to Ottawa for his first game after being traded to the Predators on Feb. 10, 2011, was given a scoreboard tribute and a standing ovation by the fans at Scotiabank Place. For the Nashville center, it was almost too much to handle.
"I almost wish I had worn a tinted visor," he said. "It was a bit emotional. It was a special night, for sure. I really appreciated it. It was frustrating because we didn't play well, but what are you going to do? That's all part of it."
1 - 0 OTT
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 OTT
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 OTT
4 - 2 OTT
4 - 3 OTT
Interference on goalkeeper