Senators hold off Flyers — barely
OTTAWA — At least there’s no shortage of drama when the Ottawa Senators are involved.
Ottawa, already atop the league with three blown third-period leads, almost coughed up another one before hanging on to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday night.
The Senators led 5-2 with 4:43 left in the third.
“We made it definitely interesting for our fans, make sure they don’t leave their seats too early,” joked goalie Craig Anderson, who made 36 saves as the Senators (5-1-4) closed out a five-game homestand. “The boys just found a way.”
Jean-Gabriel Pageau led the Senators with a goal and two assists. Dion Phaneuf, Mark Borowiecki, Mark Stone and Tom Pyatt also scored for Ottawa.
Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Sean Couturier replied for the Flyers (5-5-0). Couturier added two assists while Michal Neuvirth stopped 23 shots in the Philadelphia net.
The Flyers thought they had tied the game in the last minute when a Couturier attempt wound up in Anderson’s glove on the other side of the goal line. But the referee ruled no goal because the play was dead.
“I’ve watched the puck go over the line and it’s 100 percent a goal,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “I don’t know how that’s missed. That bothers me because our guys fought their rear ends off tonight to get back into this thing and tie this thing up. We tied it up. It’s there. I just watched it on our own video in the coaches’ room and it’s clear as day.”
The Flyers fell behind 3-0 in the first and could never catch up.
“The start wasn’t good, obviously, we all know that,” Voracek said. “We were slow in the first period. “We did a good job to try and come back, but you cannot expect to win many games if you give up 11 goals in two games.”
Especially on the heels of a 6-2 loss to Anaheim.
“We were just sloppy,” said Voracek. “There’s no way around it. A bad start. They score right away. Second goal was a blown coverage by me. I think we played better since the second period, but sometimes it’s not good enough.
“We just didn’t skate. If you don’t skate, you don’t have openings. We started skating in the second period and they had trouble hanging with us. It was just about skating in the first period. We didn’t skate and we got scored on and there goes the game. In those games where we don’t play our best hockey, we’ve just got to keep it simple. Three mistakes, three goals.”
The Senators were missing three top six forwards with injuries to Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris and Zack Smith. It was a factor as the night went on.
“Our players started great, and obviously we’re using a lot of the same guys over and over again,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “You could see by the end of the second period we missed that fraction of a second, and in the third period we were obviously just trying to hang on. We were in survival mode.
“We were tested. The players answered with a lot of character.”
Borowiecki said finding ways to win with a short-handed lineup could help the Senators in the long run.
“Sometimes adversity at the beginning of the year is a good thing,” said Borowiecki, who ended a personal 45-game drought with his first period goal. “You obviously never want to see guys hurt or sick, but from a group perspective if you’re able to battle through that adversity early on, I think it can make you tighter going through the home stretch.”
The Senators still need to find a way to better protect third-period leads.
“It was interesting, probably not the way we wanted to win it,” Borowiecki said. “I think it’s kind of a mentality for us. I don’t know if guys are even conscious of it, but it seems were a bit timid, a bit hesitant and kind of draw back a bit.
“Everyone says you’ve got to keep your foot on the gas pedal, blah blah blah ... it is easier said than done but it’s something we’ve got to work on.”
NOTES: Flyers C Nolan Patrick was scratched as was Flyers RW Dale Weise. ... Senators C Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored the 10th short-handed goal of his career. ... The Senators scratched RW Jack Rodewald. ... Senators C Kyle Turris missed the game with a viral infection. ... Senators C Filip Chlapik made his NHL debut and picked up his first NHL point 91 seconds into it. A second-round pick in 2015, he had three assists in seven games for the team’s AHL affiliate in Belleville. ... The Senators left immediately after the game to play the Devils in New Jersey on Friday. Senators G Mike Condon will get the start. ... The Flyers take on the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday.