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Rollercoaster ride remains on upswing for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators

BOSTON — It has been the wackiest of rides, one that almost defies description.

Even for the Ottawa Senators, who have already experienced the lowest of lows — early season drubbings by the Colorado Avalanche (7-1) and Philadelphia Flyers (7-2) — immediately followed by their current high, a six-game winning streak that is the team's longest in 18 months.

Yes, Colin Greening admits, it's a bit of a head scratcher to put that wild swing of results and emotions into words.

"A rollercoaster would probably be the right word for it," said Greening, whose breakaway goal helped the Senators rally past the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Sunday night at Scotiabank Place. "I guess we're on the upswing right now, which is nice, but I hope we don't have to use that word anymore because we're more consistent.

"If you look back at those games like Philadelphia and Colorado ... they're not a point of pride for us, so we want to put them behind and focus on games like the last six we've played."

Even more remarkable is the way the Senators are winning. The last five victories have all been one-goal nailbiters, including a pair of road shootout triumphs over the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers. It hasn't exactly been a stretch for the faint of heart.

"Our team has showed a lot of resiliency and character through the 12 games we've played," Senators head coach Paul MacLean said following the triumph over the Leafs. "We've handled adversity, we've faced adversity, we've caused our own adversity, we've kind of been up and down the hill, but it's all a learning process and we know that at some point in time, it's going to come to an end, then we're going to have to get back on the horse and do it again.

"But right now our team is working consistently very hard and working consistently for 60 minutes and when you do that in this league, good things happen."

MacLean didn't even play with a full deck on Sunday night — captain Daniel Alfredsson remains sidelined after taking a hit to the head from the Rangers' Wojtek Wolski on Saturday, and starting goaltender Craig Anderson was given the night off — but the good times kept rolling. Binghamton callup Kaspars Daugavins' first National Hockey League goal proved to be the game-winner, while Robin Lehner made the most of a surprise start, stopping 22-of-24 shots for his first home goaltending win.

"It just feels good that this team trusts me and they want to keep giving me some chances," said the 20-year-old Lehner, who was summoned from the B-Sens when Alex Auld went down with an injury on Saturday. "It just shows the organization and the team (does) good stuff for my development. I'm just going to keep on working and, hopefully, I'll become a permanent part of this team someday."

Senators general manager Bryan Murray has noticed a significant growth in confidence as the wins keep piling up. Case in point: the seeing-eye stretch pass from the end line to the opposite blue line by rookie blueliner David Rundblad that sent Greening in alone for his goal.

"We were pretty terrible at the beginning in a few games," said Murray. "Having a 1-5 start set us back a bit but very definitely, you can see the confidence and the willingness to take a chance once in awhile with the puck to make a good play. I really believe, as we go forward, that will (make) a huge difference in our hockey team."

The numbers game

An official scoring change has awarded the Senators' second goal in Saturday's 5-4 shootout win over the New York Rangers to Milan Michalek. Jason Spezza, who was originally credited with the marker, now draws an assist on the play, with Filip Kuba retaining the second helper.

Michalek, who also scored the tying goal and the shootout winner at Madison Square Garden, now has eight goals, ranking him in a tie for third among all NHL snipers with Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres. Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs leads with 10 goals, followed by James Neal of the Dallas Stars with nine.

Meanwhile, the Senators' Erik Karlsson leads all league players with 12 assists and ranks No. 1 among all league defencemen in scoring with 13 points. With 15 points, Spezza shares second in the league scoring race with Vanek and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers. Kessel also is tops in that category with 18 points.

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