Shean Donovan is developing quite the knack, it seems, for scoring goals when it matters the most.
The Ottawa Senators winger has hit the scoresheet three times this season – every one of them a game-winner. The latest came Thursday night, when Donovan notched the deciding goal in the Senators’ 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place.
“It’s kind of lucky, to have three goals that are game-winners, but it’s fun,” the former Ottawa 67’s star said Friday morning after an optional team workout at the Bell Sensplex.
“I’m playing for a great team here, and everything’s about winning. So whenever you can contribute and score a few goals, it’s big … it’s nice when everyone can contribute.”
Though he spends most of his time on the Senators’ fourth line, Donovan has a bit of a history of producing clutch goals.
“I think I had eight (game-winners) one year in Calgary, so it was interesting the way that worked out,” he said. “But I’ll take them as they come.”
Thursday night, Donovan was in the right place at the right time to pump a nifty feed from Mike Fisher past Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, which put the Senators up 3-1 in the second period. It became an even bigger goal when the Sabres closed the gap to one in the third period.
“Guys (on the bench) were bugging me, saying that I was cheering when (the Sabres) scored their second goal to make it 3-2, so that I’d end up with the game-winner,” Donovan said with a grin. “There’s a little bit of luck in scoring game-winners.”
Senators head coach John Paddock will surely take that kind of added scoring from his third- and fourth-liners whenever he can get it.
“Any team that’s successful has to have that,” said Paddock. “I don’t think it’s just coincidence that (Donovan) has three game-winners, but I don’t necessarily think it’s the norm for a player that plays eight or nine minutes a game.
“But you need that at the right times, and he’s produced at the right times. We need those guys producing … they’re very important players on the team.”
Donovan, who was acquired from the Boston Bruins in an off-season trade that sent Peter Schaefer to Beantown, couldn’t be happier with his return to familiar turf.
“Whenever you get a chance to be part of a winning team like this, you want to help out and be as big a part of it as you can be,” said Donovan, who was born in Timmins, Ont., but grew up in nearby Carleton Place.
Thursday’s triumph pushed the Senators’ record against Northeast Division foes to a perfect 8-0-0. That mark figures to face a big challenge in the next week, though, with a road trip that sends the Sens to Toronto, Montreal and Buffalo.
Stop No. 1 comes Saturday, when the Senators face their provincial rivals, the Maple Leafs, at the Air Canada Centre (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Though they’ve swept all three meetings with Toronto this season, the Senators expect to be tested in Toronto.
“It’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure,” said Martin Gerber, the National Hockey League’s leader in goaltending wins (12-1-0), who’ll make his third straight start on Saturday. “I’m sure they’re going to come really hard at us there. We’ve got to be ready for that and keep our winning (habit) going.”
While the Senators have protected home ice well in posting the NHL’s top record (15-2-0), they’ve been even mightier on the road – a perfect 5-0-0.
“We’ve had a lot of home games, which we’ve made the most of, which is nice,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
. “We’re undefeated on the road, we’re 5-0 and we’d like to see how long we can keep that streak going.”