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Senators hold off Lightning, win in shootout

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- When the Ottawa Senators headed out of town Monday night, they left behind one big monkey that had been clinging to their back – a six-game skid.

And there was nothing easy about how they put it to an end; it finally took a shootout goal from Jason Spezza to secure the 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Spezza scored the only goal in the shootout and Erik Karlsson had three points for Ottawa, which built a two-goal lead and lost it before finally prevailing.

"Obviously we've been down," Spezza said. "It's been a frustrating stretch of games and difficult emotionally for us to lose that many hockey games in a row this time of year. A win can give us some confidence and show us we can win games."

Senators goalie Robin Lehner finished with 35 saves and stopped all three in the shootout for the win. It was Lehner's first victory since Feb. 4, a span of nine games.

The Lightning tied the game 3-3 at 5:44 of the third period via the power play. Steven Stamkos, standing along the goal line, knocked the rebound of a shot by Ondrej Palat out of the air and past Lehner for his 21st goal of the season.

"The one thing that was impressive about that goal was that he actually waited for the puck to come down," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "So he watched that whole thing, he had poise there, waited until he was legal and put that in the net. That's impressive hand-eye coordination."

Tampa Bay converted two of seven power play opportunities; goalie Ben Bishop stopped 29 shots.

"The power play saved us tonight," Cooper said. "Getting that second power-play goal was huge. When you get down multiple goals, it takes a lot of energy to come back. We got all the way back, but we somehow couldn't get the lead."

Ottawa broke a 1-1 tie and opened up a two-goal advantage in the second period, scoring twice in 44 seconds.

Spezza gave the Senators the lead at 8:12. Karlsson's shot from the blue line was stopped, but Bishop was still down on the ice when the rebound bounced to Spezza, who fired it home.

Karlsson assisted on the next goal as well; he beat Alex Killorn to a loose puck behind the Lightning net and centered a pass to Kyle Turris, who was waiting in front to score his 22nd goal of the season.

Tampa Bay began to climb back into the game with a power-play goal by Victor Hedman at 13:26. With an assist, Valtteri Filppula's scoring streak was extended to nine games (four goals, nine assists.)

Ottawa opened the scoring at 3:57 into the game when Karlsson joined the rush and snapped a Colin Greening feed past Bishop. It was Karlsson's 20th goal of the season.

Tampa Bay answered 70 seconds later when Nikita Kucherov, a healthy scratch in the previous five games, fired a cross-ice pass from Tyler Johnson behind Lehner for his ninth goal of the season. Kucherov had not scored since Jan. 19.

The Lightning extended their consecutive point streak to nine games (5-0-4), a season-high. The point earned Monday allowed Tampa Bay to keep pace with the Montreal Canadiens, tied for second in the Atlantic Division with 87 points each. The Lightning have a game in hand on the Canadiens.

Tampa Bay, which at one point early in the season had prevailed in five of six shootouts, has now failed to produce a shootout goal in its past 15 attempts.

"Whatever magic we had in the shootout in the beginning of the year has clearly run out," Cooper said, "which is a tough time for that to happen."

Spezza has connected on three of 10 shootout chances this season, and said he just wanted to keep his attempt basic.

"Bishop is such a big guy and he's really good in shootouts, so I just tried to go with my 'A' move and stick to it," Spezza said. "I'm not re-inventing the wheel. I just slow down, take a couple of stickhandles and wait for the right time to shoot it."

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