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Hoffman helps Senators top Blue Jackets

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman has been in and out of the lineup battling to earn a regular role in the NHL.

The 24-year-old, back in the lineup Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets after he was scratched for two games, scored the winning goal and had an assist in Ottawa's 3-2 victory at Canadian Tire Centre.

Hoffman chased down a puck chipped into the neutral zone by Senators forward Chris Neil and beat Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with a slick backhand over Bobrovsky's left shoulder.

The goal, at 9:38 of the third period, broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Senators their fourth win in a row after losing the season opener.

"Sitting out the last two games, I wanted to come in here and do everything I could to try and help this team win," Hoffman said.

"For even my confidence going forward, it helps a lot to get the first [goal] out of the way this year. … I'm looking forward to the next game."

This was Hoffman's 32nd game in the League since the Senators selected him in the fifth round (No. 130) of the 2009 NHL Draft.

Senators coach Paul MacLean took forward Erik Condra out of the lineup and put Hoffman in to take advantage Hoffman's speed.

"Speed is one of his big assets, but I thought he showed a great skill level with the puck as well tonight," MacLean said. "The goal he scored, that's a pretty good goal, [top] shelf in any league.

"[Hoffman] came in and he's been a patient guy. He had a good training camp. He certainly gave himself a good account tonight."

Hoffman set up David Legwand for the Senators' first goal and was awarded a penalty shot that was stopped by Columbus goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who made his first start of the season.

McElhinney was injured at 7:02 of the second period when Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno, backchecking hard, collided with him on a play that resulted in the Senators second goal, by Erik Karlsson. McElhinney was replaced by Bobrovsky, who faced 18 shots.

"He scored. I don't like to talk about goals. He scored. He win," Bobrovsky said of Hoffman's goal.

Foligno had an eventful return to the city where his NHL career started. The first round pick (No. 28) of the Senators in the 2006 NHL Draft, had a goal and an assist. Foligno was traded by the Senators to the Blue Jackets in July 2012 for defenseman Marc Methot.

It was the second game in a row the opposing goaltender left a Senators game because of an injury.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra was injured in the Senators' 5-3 win here Thursday.

"I feel so bad. It's one of those ones where you think you are helping and you're probably hurting more than anything," Foligno said. "You just dive to make a play and try to help him out. Sometimes it deflects off you stick and goes in the air, but that time it just stuck with me. You can't slow down and unfortunately he took the brunt of my force coming into him.

"I felt pretty bad. You hate to see that. He played really well for us tonight and I'm pretty disappointed I knocked him out of the game. … I have to maybe take him out for dinner or something."

Foligno said he realized quickly McElhinney was injured.

"He didn't really say much. I think he was just trying to figure out where he was," Foligno said. "I hit him pretty hard in the head. I haven't talked to him or seen him, but hopefully it's not too serious and he can get back in the lineup as soon as possible."

The Blue Jackets, playing for the second straight night, erased a 2-0 lead with goals 41 seconds apart in the second period.

Foligno was credited with the Blue Jackets' first goal at 13:57 when the puck went into the Ottawa net off the foot of Senators rookie Curtis Lazar and behind goaltender Robin Lehner, who made 38 saves in his second win in as many starts.

Columbus defenseman David Savard tied the game at 14:38 with a shot from the point after a turnover at the Ottawa blue line by Senators defenseman Eric Gryba.

Legwand scored the only goal of an eventful first period, at 15:50, after some fine work by Hoffman.

Hoffman had a strong first period. Four minutes before he set up Legwand for his goal, he broke away and was held by Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski, earning a penalty shot from referee Graham Skilliter.

Hoffman skated in on McElhinney and attempted the deke made famous by former NHL star Peter Forsberg, but Hoffman's one-handed backhand was stopped by the goaltender.

Hoffman was also noticeable in the first period for a strong backcheck in the neutral zone which led to a Blue Jackets turnover.

Foligno and Columbus center Ryan Johansen said they were satisfied with the Blue Jackets' effort starting a four-game road trip that continues in California.

"That's the way we have to play," Foligno said. "Robin Lehner was really good for them tonight. He played really well. They collapsed and didn't give us much on rebounds. We just couldn't find a way to get that third one."

Johansen said, "I liked the effort I saw from the guys in the last few minutes. It's too bad we fell short. It would have been nice to get this one and head to California feeling good about ourselves. We'll put it behind us here and focus on our first game in [California]."

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