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With Spezza out, fourth line sparks Sens over Caps

by Erin Nicks /

OTTAWA -- Even withoutf first-line center Jason Spezza, the Ottawa Senators managed to get the job done.

Sergei Gonchar's power-play goal with 2:30 left in the game gave the Senators a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at Scotiabank Place.

"I was just trying to get it as hard as I could on the net," Gonchar said. "Having guys like [Chris] Neil and [Guillaume] Latendresse provide the screen helped a lot. It was a big win for us."

Ottawa trailed 2-0 and played without Spezza, who was out with an upper-body injury. He will be re-evaluated and his status for Wednesday's game against the Montreal Canadiens is still unknown, according to coach Paul MacLean.

Jim O'Brien and Milan Michalek also scored for Ottawa (4-1-1). Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks had the goals for Washington (1-4-1).

Ottawa's Craig Anderson made 31 saves for his fourth win of the season, including a point-blank stop on Mike Ribeiro with 39.7 seconds left.

Other Senators made an attempt to step up, with the team's fourth line of O'Brien, Mika Zibanejad (making his season debut) and Erik Condra spending the most time in the offensive zone.

Washington maintained pressure on the Ottawa defense and broke through halfway through the first period. Wojtek Wolski capitalized on a giveaway by Latendresse and skated up the left wing with the puck. He dished to Brouwer in front of the net, where he sent a backhander past Anderson's stick at 13:15.

The Capitals made it 2-0 coming off a power play, when Jay Beagle's shot from the right half boards was deflected by Hendricks past Anderson's left shoulder at 17:43.

Ottawa's fourth line put the Senators on the board in the second period. O'Brien tipped the puck to Zibanejad through the neutral zone, and the center quickly dished it to Condra. Zibanejad and O'Brien then sped to the net. Zibanejad occupied Jason Chimera's attention while Condra turned and skated cross-ice. Once on the right side, Condra passed it back to O'Brien, who redirected the pass underneath a stretched-out Michal Neuvirth at 18:37.

The fourth line impressed MacLean so much he decided to give them additional shifts, a move O'Brien definitely appreciated.

"It's a good feeling," O'Brien said. "We all hear that if you're out there and you're playing [well], coach will keep you on the ice. It's that simple. Being put with [Zibanejad], who hadn't played [in the NHL] in a while, we just wanted to get the puck and keep moving all the time. I thought Mika did a good job of that."

Zibanejad, who was the game's first star, was crucial in the game's turnaround for Ottawa.

"The play of Zibanejad, O'Brien and Condra was the most consistent from start to finish," MacLean said.

"The goal that they scored took some of the pressure off us. [Zibanejad] was the first star. We tend to play our first stars. He's earned the right to play [Wednesday against the Canadiens]."

A quick strike by Ottawa early in the third period tied the game 2-2. Washington's Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff, but Michalek beat Tomas Kudratek to the puck and backhanded it past Neuvirth at 2:20.

The Capitals were not able to recover after the Senators grabbed the momentum, and it was a bitter pill to swallow for the Caps, who dominated most of the first two periods.

"It's discouraging," Brouwer said. "We carried the play for around 35 minutes; I thought we were doing a lot of smart things up until then. A missed assignment off the faceoff [on the Michalek goal] and a tough penalty at the end. We didn't feel a momentum change. We came into the dressing room [at the end of the second period] with a lot of confidence. You never want goals that late in the period, but we shrugged it off. Unfortunately, we lost that energy after the second goal early in the third."

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