Senators shut out Wild
By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- After a rough start to the season, the Ottawa Senators have battled back into playoff contention, thanks in large part to emerging young talent.
The latest youngster to make his presence felt for the Senators is backup goaltender Robin Lehner, who recorded his first shutout of the season with 27 saves for the streaking Senators in a 3-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
Lehner, who started just once since Dec. 18 and was playing for the first time in 2014, got goal support from left winger Clark MacArthur, right winger Erik Condra and center Kyle Turris as the Senators (21-18-8) improved to 6-0-1 in their last seven games.
"I'm always scared to death to say we've accomplished anything until everything is said and done, but we're certainly finding our game, and how we need to play to be successful. We have the total group playing the way we need to play," said Senators coach Paul MacLean. "Young players can give you some headaches at the start but if you can be patient and get through the growing pains, the improvement can be quick and it can be radical."
Minnesota (25-19-5) has been playing great hockey on the road, where the Wild have won three in a row, but have now lost two straight in their home rink, despite 29 saves from goalie Darcy Kuemper on Tuesday.
"There's no excuse for that. Home's where you've got to take advantage," said Wild right wing Justin Fontaine. "We've been playing good on the road, we've got to bring it back here. We all know it. We all know we've got to be better, come when the puck drops and establish our structure and our team play."
The Senators recorded 12 of the game's first 13 shots on goal, and took a 1-0 lead on a first-period power play. With Wild center Mikael Granlund serving a double minor for a high stick to Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson's face, MacArthur finished off a high-speed rush to the net, taking a cross-ice pass from Turris for a quick re-direct past Kuemper.
"We said after the first period, let's make that the story of the first period, let's try not to make it the story of the game," Yeo said. "We weren't on our toes. We were getting beat to loose pucks to start the game, and we weren't moving our feet. We were hesitant. We need to be ready to start the next game better than that."
After a scoreless second period, the Wild were clearly the aggressors early in the final 20 minutes, and it cost them. Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella's slap-shot attempt from the blue line produced a broken stick, a turnover and a breakaway for Condra, who finished an end-to-end rush by poking the puck between Kuemper's knees.
Turris added a power-play goal with 2:22 left in the game, his third in as many games. The Senators captured seven of a possible eight points on their just-concluded four-game road trip.
"We knew that we were going to have to get on a run just to get back into the (playoff) picture, so now we can't let up," Turris said. "We need to keep going. There are five or six teams trying to get into that last spot."
Kuemper was making just his fifth appearance of the season. He has started three of the Wild's past five games while goaltender Josh Harding is sidelined, dealing with medication to treat his multiple sclerosis. At the other end of the ice, Lehner said there's been a fundamental change in the way the Senators are playing, which makes it easier to thrive in goal.
"If the play isn't there, we're not doing it," said Lehner, now 6-9-3 this season. "We're not forcing anything, and that's been the difference. We're playing simple and not forcing many plays, so there's not as many turnovers, not as many dangerous chances."
NOTES: While he is still a ways away from returning to game action, Wild LW Zach Parise skated with an assistant coach prior to practice Tuesday. Parise last played in Minnesota's Dec. 22 road game vs. the New York Rangers. He suffered a foot injury Nov. 25. ... Senators RW Chris Neil was scratched from the Ottawa lineup Tuesday for the fifth consecutive game. Neil, an alternate captain, has five goals and one assist this season, but is dealing with a hamstring injury. ... The time away from the rink hasn't been uneventful for Parise. Last week, he and wife Alisha became parents for the first time, welcoming a boy and girl -- twins Jaxson and Emilia -- into the world. ... The first-period goal by Senators LW Clarke MacArthur was his fifth in the last six games. ... Minnesota, which won its last three road games, is in the middle of a three-game homestand. The Wild hosts the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. Having just concluded four in a row on the road, the Senators are at home on Thursday as well, hosting the Montreal Canadiens.