OTTAWA – Two different players scored their first career NHL goal Tuesday night, as the Ottawa Senators beat the New York Islanders 3-1 at Scotiabank Place.
Andre Benoit and Dave Dziurzynski each scored against Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro, who stopped 23 of 26 shots in just his third start of the season. New York lost for the seventh time in its last nine games (2-7-0).
Dziurzynski's first shot came from the top of the left circle and was bobbled by DiPietro, and the latter couldn't seize control of the puck. Dziurzynski was able to collect the loose puck and lifted the rebound into the net to give Ottawa a 3-1 lead with just 2:35 left in regulation.
"It's what you dream of as a kid; it hasn't sunk in yet," Dziurzynski said. "I was going to the net, and it ended up bouncing out and landed right on my stick. I ended up banging it home, so it was nice. Playing with [Chris Neil and Zack Smith], I'm able to grind and keep things simple."
Colin Greening also scored for the Senators (9-6-2), who won their second in a row. Travis Hamonic scored the only goal for the Islanders (6-9-1).
Ottawa has now won its last four games against the Islanders, outscoring them 19-4. Craig Anderson made 37 saves for the win. DiPietro's last victory against the Senators came on Jan. 13, 2008.
New York nearly scored at the halfway mark of the first period. Mark Streit whirled around with the puck and passed diagonally across the zone to Matt Martin, who was ready with a point-blank shot. Anderson was forced to dive across the goalmouth in preparation for the save, but the puck sailed over the net at the last second.
Ottawa had its best chance with two minutes left in the period. Derek Grant skated through the Islanders' offensive zone and shot from the high slot. DiPietro made the initial save and tried to swat it away with his stick. He ended up tipping the puck back to Grant as he skated by the right side of the net. Grant went for the tip-in, but DiPietro managed to make the save.
The Islanders had their final opportunity with about 1:20 left in the period. Chris Phillips turned it over to Keith Aucoin just outside the Ottawa blue line. He passed it across to Josh Bailey, who backhanded the puck over Anderson's shoulder and off the crossbar.
Ottawa broke through in the second period and ended two droughts in the process. Kyle Okposo was called for holding at 5:37, giving the Senators a power play. Playing with the man advantage had been a struggle of late for Ottawa, going 0-for-24 in its previous six games. Daniel Alfredsson gained control of the puck behind the net and passed out in front into traffic, where Greening was able to tip it in past DiPietro at 6:01. It was Greening's first goal since Jan. 27.
After dropping down the depth chart over the past month, coach Paul MacLean held Greening out of the lineup against Toronto on Feb. 16. Being a healthy scratch gave the forward a chance to re-evaluate his game.
"It was really important for me to score tonight," Greening said. "I consider myself to be a person who can put a few pucks in the back of the net. Sometimes, when you get put out of the lineup, it gives you a chance to reflect and step back. The last two games I've felt really good; I felt my skating was better. The goal on the power play was an added benefit."
Just over two minutes later, Jakob Silfverberg passed diagonally to the right point, where Benoit was waiting. The defenseman sent a long shot from just inside the blue line past DiPietro at 8:37, as the Senators grabbed a 2-0 lead.
For the 29-year-old Benoit, his goal was one to savor. The journeyman had played in Finland, Sweden and Russia over the course of his career, and signed with Ottawa as a free agent last July. With the treasured puck already perched on his locker's shelf, the defenseman was all smiles after the game.
"It was a long time coming," Benoit said. "I had a few chances this year, and it's nice to finally get the first one. Having it be a game winner makes it that much more special."
After pressuring the Senators through the opening minutes of the third period, the Islanders would capitalize. Marty Reasoner dug the puck out from the corner, and passed to Hamonic in the slot. Hamonic caught Anderson off guard and fired through the goaltender's pads at 2:44, making the score 2-1. It was Hamonic's first goal in 15 games.
John Tavares was held pointless for the second consecutive game after scoring six goals and two assists in his previous five games.
"I thought our work ethic and our approach to the game was much better," Tavares said. "We could have deserved better, but we didn't find the result we wanted. We can still do more."
Hamonic wouldn't allow his team off the hook, despite the improvement in play. New York lost 7-0 to Philadelphia on home ice Monday afternoon.
"We had a lot of good looks, from the beginning to the end," Hamonic said. "Running into a hot goaltender is just an easy excuse. We have to generate more and get into those greasy areas. As defensemen, we have to do a better job of funneling more pucks to the net so our forwards can get those chances."