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Senators rally to defeat struggling Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- First-year goaltender Andrew Hammond's two-game shutout streak ended Saturday, but he kept his NHL record perfect and led the surging Ottawa Senators to their fifth straight victory, defeating the slumping San Jose Sharks 4-2 at SAP Center on Saturday.

Hammond, 27, finished with 28 saves. He's 5-0-0 in five starts since being recalled from the minors after starter Craig Anderson and backup Robin Lehner went down with injuries.

"At the end of the day, shutouts are cool, but winning is obviously more fun," Hammond said. "If that means giving up the shutout streak to win, I'll take it any day of the week."

Mike Hoffman scored two goals, and Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone each had one for Ottawa, which completed a franchise-first California sweep by beating the Anaheim Ducks , the Los Angeles Kings and the Sharks in a span of four days.

Ottawa (27-23-10) trails the Boston Bruins by seven points in the race for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs; the Senators have two games in hand.

"I think we showed everyone around our dressing room that we can play and we're a good team in this League when we want to be," Hoffman said. "Beating these three teams here is never something easy to do. So we're making a good push here. We're going strong and we just got to keep it going."

Tommy Wingels and Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks (30-25-8), who lost their eighth straight home game and saw their hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 11th straight season take another blow.

The Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but they gave up three unanswered goals.

"I don't know if it's a killer instinct we lack," Wingels said. "We don't know how to play with the lead right now, I don't know what it is. But it's frustrating.

"It [stinks] losing. The way you lose doesn't affect me. Time's ticking away here. Every game we lose is two points down the drain. These are games we should win, these are games we had the opportunity with the lead and we can't find a way to win. It's frustrating."

The Sharks are five points behind the Minnesota Wild, who hold the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

"This is a tough stretch," Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan said. "It seems like everything that can go wrong is going to go wrong. Two power-play goals go off the end boards and in. We've just got to push a little harder, we've got to work, get pucks out, get pucks in, just battle. Everybody knows what position we're in. We've just got to get the job done. It comes with preparation. Everybody has to figure out what they need to do and bring it every night."

Stone tied the game at 3:52 of the final period. Kyle Turris fired a soft shot from the right circle that Antti Niemi stopped but couldn't control, and Stone knocked the rebound between his pads for his 15th goal of the season.

Hoffman put Ottawa ahead 3-2 at 7:59 with his first power-play goal of the season. Mika Zibanejad sent a shot wide right that hit the end boards and ricocheted to Hoffman in the lower left circle. He beat Niemi with a snap shot.

Hoffman scored an empty-net goal with 1:10 left to play, giving him a team-high 23 goals for the season, the most among NHL rookies this season.

"They came out strong in the first and we didn't have much," Karlsson said. "We stuck to it. We didn't get too rattled about it and we played the same way. Even though we were down most of the game, we kept going and going and capitalized on the opportunities they gave us, and again Hammer played pretty good for us."

Hammond came into the game after back-to-back shutouts against the Ducks and Kings; he hadn't allowed a goal since 7:38 of the first period against the Florida Panthers three games ago.

Wingels wasted little time ending Hammond's shutout streak, banging a rebound past him from close range at 2:27 of the first period to give San Jose a 1-0 lead.

Hammond's shutout streak ended less than 10 minutes short of breaking Patrick Lalime's franchise record of 184:06.

"We knew they were going to come hard," Hammond said. "Obviously they had a real strong push to start. When you see a team like that you try to answer it. But you don't necessarily know until you experience it. We gave up the one but I thought we weathered it overall that push from them and we were able to give ourselves a chance the rest of the way to battle back."

Ottawa pulled even on Karlsson's power-play goal at 7:29 of the second period. With Brent Burns in the penalty box for interference, Turris fired a shot from the point that went wide right of the net, hit the end boards and caromed to Karlsson, who shot the puck between Niemi's pads from the right circle.

San Jose regained the lead on Marleau's power-play goal at 13:19 with Colin Greening in the box for boarding. Burns sent a shot from the point that Pavelski tipped. The puck hit Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot's skate and headed toward the net. Hammond made the save but couldn't control the rebound, and Marleau scored his 14th goal of the season, from close range.

The goal was the 451st of Marleau's career, putting him alone in 57th place on the NHL's all-time list.

San Jose coach Todd McLellan shuffled his lines two days after a disheartening 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in which the Sharks led 2-1 after two periods but had all of two shots on goal in the third.

Forward Tomas Hertl moved from the third line to top line and skated with center Joe Thornton and Pavelski. Melker Karlsson dropped to the second line with center Logan Couture and Marleau. Wingels moved from the second to the third line and skated with center James Sheppard and Matt Nieto.

San Jose's fourth-line had a new look, too. Tye McGinn was activated from injured reserve after missing 12 games with a head injury and skated with Barclay Goodrow and center Andrew Desjardins, who was a healthy scratch against Detroit.

Different lines, same result for the Sharks.

"That's not good enough," McLellan said of San Jose's effort. "We still have players who have to give a lot more."

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