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Sens blow late lead, then beat 'Canes in shootout

by Kurt Dusterberg
RALEIGH -- The Ottawa Senators must have felt like they had to beat the Carolina Hurricanes twice.

The Senators blew a two-goal lead in the final five minutes of regulation Tuesday night and hand to hang on to get through overtime before Jason Spezza scored the lone goal in the shootout, giving Ottawa a 3-2 victory over Carolina for its third win in a row and first of the season away from Scotiabank Place.

The Senators looked like they were on cruise control in the third period until goals by Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner got the 'Canes even. Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson made the last six of his 32 saves in overtime, then denied all three Carolina attempts in the shootout. Cam Ward stopped 26 shots, but Spezza beat him through the pads in the second round of the shootout. Anderson then stopped Tuomo Ruutu to win the game.

Ottawa improved to 4-5-0 after a 1-5-0 start. Carolina is 3-3-3 and has lost its last three.

"We knew it was going to be difficult to get the first road win," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "And it certainly was, even though we were in a good position going into the third. But we did a good job bringing it home."

The Senators led 2-0 on second-period goals by Zenon Konopka and Spezza before the Hurricanes' late rally.

Ruutu cut the margin to 2-1 when he shoveled a backhander off the end boards past Anderson with 4:42 remaining in regulation. The inspired Hurricanes kept the pressure on and tied it with 2:31 remaining. With Ottawa's David Rundblad off for holding, Skinner deflected Jamie McBain's wrist shot from the blue line between Anderson's pads to tie the game.

"I knew I owed my teammates for the second goal," said Anderson, who has been in net for all three wins. "You never want to have a puck go through you, even if it's deflected. That goal was on me, so I wanted to be able to redeem myself in the shootout."

Anderson forced the shootout with a dazzling stop on a deflection by Jay Harrison in the final seconds of the five-minute overtime, the last of Carolina's six shots during the extra period.

After seeing his team go without a shot for the first 11 minutes of the third period and make up a late two-goal deficit, McBain wasn't entirely unhappy with the outcome.

“Down 2-0 like that, especially with the amount of time left on the clock, and we were able to battle back,” he said. “Just shows the character that we have in the room to never stop believing. One point is better than none.”

After a scoreless first period, the Senators carried play in the second period, outshooting the Hurricanes 13-7 and scoring twice.

Konopka put Ottawa ahead at 6:30 when he took Sergei Gonchar's pass, got behind the Hurricanes defense and beat Ward with a short-side wrister from the left circle. For Konopka, who registered a league-leading 307 penalty minutes with the New York Islanders last season, the goal was his first in an Ottawa uniform after signing as a free agent in the summer. He has nine in 201 career NHL games.

"I got 32 text messages after the game, so I guess I don't score too many goals in this League," joked Konopka, who had two last season on Long Island. "I had some speed, and as I looked up, there was a lot of room there. I didn't know if (Ward) was going to take it away, but I saw it and fired it."

Ottawa converted its only power play of the game to grab a 2-0 lead. Harrison was called for holding at 17:47 and Spezza scored 49 seconds later by wristing the rebound of Gonchar's shot behind Ward.

"That was just one of those you had to be Johnny on the spot," said Spezza, who found a loose puck near the goal line. "You take the pretty ones and the ugly ones. They all count."

MacLean felt his team was at its best in the middle 20 minutes.

"In the second period, I thought we played real well and kind of took over the game," he said. "But things can happen quickly in this game. We just had to make sure we kept our wits about us, and the overtime was pretty exciting going back and forth."

After Carolina was unable to turn a 15-5 shot margin in the first period into a lead,
Hurricanes' coach Paul Maurice was especially unhappy with his team's play in the second period.

“We were really struggling with speed through the neutral zone, and dumped pucks we didn’t need to dump,” Maurice said. “We were late on our forechecks. We had a very difficult time moving the puck. It was a tough, filthy, grinding game.”

Mika Zibanejad, the Senators' top pick (No. 6) in the Entry Draft this past June, reached the nine-game threshold -- and the Senators now have to decide whether to return him to Djurgarden, his Swedish Elite League team, or keep him on the NHL roster for the remainder of the season. Zibanejad, the youngest player in franchise history (18 years, 172 days), has one assist and is minus-3.

Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray said Tuesday night that the team management will meet with Zibanejad on Wednesday or Thursday to discuss his future. For now, no decision has been made.

"It's about, Will he benefit from playing in the League?" Murray said. "Will he learn more playing here than going back to Sweden? If he were playing here in the junior system, where we could see him every day, it might be different. Not having a daily view of him if he went back (to Sweden) makes it a little more complicated from my point of view."
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