OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators got a much-needed shot of confidence Thursday night.
Alex DeBrincat had two goals and an assist, Brady Tkachuk added another two goals and Ottawa routed the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-2. Over their last 10 games, the Senators had gone 3-6-1 and saw their chances at making the post-season become extremely slim.
“It’s big for us,” said Ottawa defenceman Thomas Chabot. “Obviously, we’ve felt like we’ve been playing some good hockey lately, but obviously not getting the results we wanted.
" … but it just shows that when we stick to what we do and how we play, we have a lot of success and it (showed) tonight … the way we played tonight is exactly how we need to play the rest of the way.”
Derick Brassard, Erik Brannstrom and Austin Watson added the others for Ottawa (35-32-5), while Mads Sogaard made 27 saves.
“It’s nice to get a definitive win for this group,” said DeBrincat. “I thought we played pretty good from start to finish.”
The victory marks Ottawa’s first 35-win season since the 2015-16 campaign.
Brayden Point and Mikhail Sergachev scored for Tampa Bay (42-25-6). Brian Elliott stopped 28 shots.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper was unimpressed with his team’s performance. Cooper had made it clear to his squad that the Senators love to play off the rush and told them specifically not to feed Ottawa's rush.
However, he felt his team did that all night long.
“We’re having a bit of a bit of a tough stretch here, but it’s all self-inflicted,” said Cooper. “I’m just not sure when they’re going to learn, but they’re learning tough lessons.”
The Lightning are on a three-game losing streak, having been outscored 15-6 through the stretch.
“I think we’re feeling sorry for ourselves a tiny bit,” admitted Cooper. “Because they know better. That’s what makes it tough is because they know they’re making these mistakes."
The Senators dominated play for much of the game, but Tampa Bay was still within striking distance early in the third period.
Sergachev made it a one-goal game 4:10 into the frame with a power-play marker.
But less than two minutes later, Brannstrom had a beautiful end-to-end rush culminating with a shot into the top corner to make it 4-2 for Ottawa. It was only Brannstrom’s second of the season, but the 23-year-old has shown significant improvement and poise throughout the year.
“It’s fun,” admitted Brannstrom. “I want to play offensive hockey and contribute out there so it was nice to see it go in.”
Following the game, Senators head coach D.J. Smith said he felt Brannstom was the team’s best defenceman on the night.
Things went downhill from that point on for the Lightning.
Tkachuk padded the Senators' edge with a power-play goal at 13:11 and added an empty-net goal 24 seconds later.
Watson closed the scoring at 14:39 when he spun around and saw his shot beat Elliott.
Trailing 2-0 to start the second, the Lightning cut the deficit in half when Point beat Sogaard on a one-timer from the left faceoff circle.
Ottawa restored its two-goal lead with 1:56 remaining in the period when Brassard scored a power-play goal just as the man advantage was about to expire.
DeBrincat opened the scoring 8:53 into the first period when he took a Drake Batherson pass off the rush and beat Elliott far side.
Just under three minutes later, DeBrincat raced up the ice, spun around to maintain possession and let a shot go that went over Elliot's shoulder and in.
Senators forward Tim Stutzle had one assist in his 200th NHL game Thursday night. He ranks fifth all time in points (115) through the first 200 games of a career.
Ottawa came to terms with defenceman Tyler Kleven on a three-year entry-level contract Thursday. Kleven recently completed his junior year with the University of North Dakota where he had eight goals and 10 assists through 35 games. … Nick Holden and Julien Gauthier were a healthy scratch for the Senators. … Thursday marked the first time Nick Paul returned to Ottawa since being traded last year.
The Senators head to New Jersey to take on the Devils on Saturday.
The Lightning will take on the Boston Bruins Saturday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press