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Senators race to early lead, hang on against Lightning

by Erin Nicks

OTTAWA – Tampa Bay gave the Ottawa Senators a bit of the scare in the third period, but the Senators came away with the win, beating the Lightning 5-3 on Saturday afternoon at Scotiabank Place.

In the first period, Ottawa (17-9-6) scored four goals in just more than seven minutes and carried that lead until the last half of the third, when the Lightning's (13-17-1) Tyler Johnson netted two goals, followed up by a third goal from Teddy Purcell.

Daniel Alfredsson had two goals, including the empty netter with 10 seconds left. Jakob Silfverberg had a goal and an assist, while Eric Gryba, Guillaume Latendresse also scored the goals for Ottawa.

"Yeah, it was a little bit closer than we would have liked," Alfredsson said. "But it's probably what we would have expected before the game started. All in all, it's getting the two points for us and that first period is really what set it up for our team."

Marc Methot, who also had two points, admitted the Seantors let their guard down.

"That was really frustrating," Methot said. "We worked so hard, especially in that first period to get a nice lead, and I think that was the problem. It got a little too comfortable and it showed. We handled it well in the second, but it's a natural feeling as the game is winding down, you get a little relaxed and that was an issue. But we got the win and that's what matters."

Robin Lehner made 29 saves for the win, while Cedrick Desjardins turned away 19 shots after relieving Mathieu Garon in the first.

Ottawa came out with a flurry of offense in the first period, scoring three goals in 4:12. Silfverberg was first on the board on the Sens, when Victor Hedman's pass up the half-wall was picked off by Marc Methot. The defenseman then wristed a shot from the top of the left faceoff corner, and the puck was redirected into the Lightning net by Silfverberg at 12:49.

Kyle Turris sent a drop pass 1:40 later to Gryba, who one-timed a shot from the high slot through the five-hole of Garon to make it a two-goal lead. It was Gryba's first NHL career goal. Methot picked up another assist for his second of the game.

The Senators made the score 3-0 at 17:01. Latendresse's initial wrist shot was saved by Garon's left pad. The puck popped out to the right of the net as the Latendresse skated past and began to fall forward. He gained just enough control to shoot towards the net and the puck banked in off the inside of the left post.

After allowing three goals in 11 shots, Garon was replaced by Desjardins in the Lightning net.

But Ottawa still wasn't finished and made the score 4-0 with 9.1 seconds left in the period, on a power-play goal from Alfredsson. The captain's initial shot in the slot was blocked by Sami Salo, but he regained control and beat Desjardins through traffic for his seventh goal of the season. Sergei Gonchar also picked up an assist, and set a new franchise record with assists scored in 10 consecutive games. Alfredsson and Jason Spezza previously held the record with nine, set in the fall of 2007.

Tampa Bay's best chance in the second period came with eight minutes left in the period. Ottawa was on a power play after a fight between Marc Methot and B.J. Crombeen left the Tampa forward with an instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct.

Methot's clean hip check on Crombeen led to the melee. The Ottawa defenseman insisted he wasn't fazed.

"It's not frustrating," Methot said. "At worst case scenario, I'm strong enough that I can just hold a guy out, and that's what I did. I'm not going to trade punches with a player. I respect [Crombeen]; I played against him in the Ontario Hockey League. Originally, I didn't think he was going to come at me, but he started yelling a couple of things, so I prepared myself. I'm not a fighter; that's no secret. But it felt good to get involved like that on my first game back [from a knee injury]."

Mike Lundin gave away the puck in the Lightning zone and Dana Tyrell recovered it. He made an attempt to deke but Lehner tracked the puck and made the pad save.

Tampa Bay scored three times in less than seven minutes in the second half of the final period, but Alfredsson's eighth of the season ended any doubt.

"That's the way sports are," Alfredsson said. "When one team gets momentum, it's not as easy to stop as you think. We did a good job, though. Once [Tampa Bay] got that third goal, we managed the puck and got the empty netter."

Steven Stamkos, who had only one shot on goal and finished the game a minus-3, was disappointed despite the failed comeback.

"There wasn't enough urgency," Stamkos said. "You saw after we were down a couple of goals, we started hitting and stuff. That falls on me, too. We can't wait until we're down to start showing emotion. I have to be better at that; everyone has to be better at that. We have to start right from the puck drop. You can't expect to win in this League when you give a team a four-goal lead on the road."

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