It’s only the third game, but the Ottawa Senators are playing the kind of hockey they talked about before the NHL regular season started and it’s reaping rewards.
Led by a two-goal, three-point night from captain Brady Tkachuk, the Senators were able to produce a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night.
“Two games of playing our type of hockey,” said Tkachuk. “That’s just been our goal. We don’t care about wins or losses, it’s just how quickly we get to our game. I think we’ve shown that we’re starting to find it now, and I think we’re going to keep building on it.”
The Senators are also getting contributions throughout their lineup.
Mathieu Joseph, Vladimir Tarasenko and Tim Stützle also scored, while Joonas Korpisalo picked up his first win and point with the Senators (2-1-0) after making 22 saves.
“Winning is exciting,” Tarasenko said. “We had a lot of talks before the season. When you win, everything is different. Like, the mood is different, you know, the atmosphere and confidence level.”
Both teams had played Saturday with the Senators beating Philadelphia 5-2, while Tampa fell 6-4 to Detroit and had a slow start.
Tampa started 29-year-old rookie Matt Tomkins, who made his NHL debut stopping 33 shots. Anthony Cirelli and Tanner Jeannot each scored for the visitors.
The Senators outshot the Lightning 17-3 in the opening period, but Tampa coach Jon Cooper didn’t feel like his team was being outplayed despite the discrepancy in shots.
“People are going to sit there and look at the first period and say oh my god, they just have 17- 3 or whatever it was, but we’re looking at chances that actually have a chance of going into the net and pucks I guess directed at the net that have a chance, but we didn’t feel like we gave them a whole lot.”
Tomkins weathered the onslaught and looked solid.
“(Tomkins) was unbelievable,” said Cirelli. “You know from the first puck drop he made huge saves and kept us in that game the whole game. Huge credit to him the way he came in here and he made saves and played really well.”
For the third straight game Ottawa opened the scoring. Seven minutes into the period Ridly Greig backhanded a pass back to Tarasenko who beat Tomkins from down low.
Tampa tied the game in the opening minute of the second after Cirelli crossed to the front of the net uncontested and roofed a shot over Korpisalo.
Tkachuk scored his first of the night midway through the second. Darren Raddysh blocked Tkachuk’s shot and dropped allowing the Senators captain to grab the loose puck and make it 2-1. Tampa tied it at the 13-minute mark when Jeannot capitalized on a Victor Hedman rebound in front.
“The two goals they score, we give them tap-ins there,” said Ottawa coach D.J. Smith. “And that’s hard for a goalie sometimes, but give our guys credit, give the (defence) credit, we came out ready to play, we held the chances down, but certainly we have to manage those big-time breakdowns.”
But with just under a minute to play in the second Nick Perbix looked to drop a pass back, but was picked off by Tarasenko who fed Joseph, who wasted no time wristing a shot to the top corner.
“It was just a tough goal to give up with a minute left and we had tired D out there and again, they catch a break,” said Cooper. “You know, they try and force the puck in, we got a stick on it and it goes right to Joseph and it’s in the net.
“Tkachuk’s goal (Raddysh) blocks it and it goes right on his stick, but we put ourselves in those situations and they capitalized so you know good on them for that.”
Tkachuk came up big in the third to give the Senators some breathing room when he beat Raddysh in a foot race and scored five-hole. Stutzle also added an empty-net goal, with Korpisalo picking up the secondary assist.
Tampa Bay bench boss Jon Cooper coached his 800th NHL game Sunday. He has a 481-251-67 record.
Ottawa’s Parker Kelly played in his 100th NHL career game Sunday. Tampa captain Steven Stamkos did not play Sunday. He is listed day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Austin Watson returned to Ottawa to face his former team. Watson signed a one-year deal with the Lightning.
The Senators host the Washington Capitals Wednesday night, while Tampa heads to Buffalo to take on the Sabres Tuesday night.