Senators squash Red Wings 6-1, eye wild-card spot
OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators have plenty to be happy about after sweeping their two-game series against the Detroit Red Wings following a 6-1 win Tuesday night, but know they need to move on and prepare for the next game.
The two wins allowed the Senators (30-26-4) to stay in the hunt for a wild-card berth in the highly contested Eastern Conference. There are six teams, including the Senators and Red Wings (28-24-8), all vying for a final playoff spot.
Coming into the games Ottawa trailed Detroit by four points but rose to the challenge and showed they’re ready to make a push.
“These are games that we were very excited to get up for and we’re definitely proud of the effort we put in,” said Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk, who had the sixth goal. “Now it’s focusing on getting a rest tomorrow and playing the way we need to play come Thursday.”
Tim Stutzle led the way with a goal — scored on a first-period penalty shot — and two assists. Austin Watson had a pair of goals, while Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat also scored.
Mads Sogaard picked up his fourth NHL victory stopping 16 shots.
Dominik Kubalik scored the lone goal for the Red Wings, while Ville Husso made 21 saves.
Detroit had no answer for Ottawa’s physical dominance and found themselves short-handed far too often as a lack of discipline was a problem in both games.
“We’re pretty down,” said Detroit’s Dylan Larkin. “Both of these (games), it’s just not the way we wanted this trip to go. We’re definitely leaving with our tail between our legs. It’s a tough feeling.”
Both Ottawa and Detroit have 64 points and find themselves five points back of Pittsburgh, which holds the final wild-card spot.
The final 22 games will be a grind, but that’s exactly what the Senators have been waiting for.
“Clearly there’s a difference in maturity from them now to four years ago when I got here,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “Now they’re starting to be difference makers every night. They know what they have to do to win. It’s not going to happen every night, but they know the way they have to play.”
The Senators took the first game 6-2 and came up with an equally impressive performance Tuesday, with this one being over after the opening 20 minutes.
Detroit opened the scoring three minutes in when Kubalik beat Sogaard with a weak shot glove side, but it was all Senators the rest of the way.
Stutzle tied the game on a penalty shot, the first of his career, and Watson scored his first of the night short-handed beating Husso up high.
Watson, known more for his ability to throw punches than score goals, looked impressive on the goal.
“Throughout my career I’ve always been able to find a way to score goals,” Watson said. “I had a couple 20-goal years in the minors so I’ve got a little bit of touch, maybe more than I get to show every night, but when the opportunity comes you want to make good on it.”
Watson scored his second of the night tapping in a Derick Brassard pass, but took a high stick from David Perron moments before cutting his nose wide open, but he was back for the third period.
“He’s a warrior,” said Tkachuk of Watson. “Not many guys get a stick close to the eye, nose, stitches and all that and come back. It just kind of shows the people we have in the locker room and the composure and how we want to finish hard."
DeBrincat scored his 20th on the ensuing power play to make it 4-1.
Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde felt for Husso.
“We’ve taken a lot of pride all year in not giving up easy offence, you guys have seen that,” said Lalonde. “The breakaways, the 2-on-1s, the odd-man (rushes), poor Ville (Husso). That’s an impossible game as a goalie. He never got comfortable. Everything he faced was either a breakaway or a power-play situation.”
The Senators are the first team in NHL regular-season history to score a power-play goal, a short-handed goal, an even-strength goal and a penalty-shot goal on four separate goals in a single period.
The period also featured an unlikely duo exchanging punches, although very few were actually thrown, as Ottawa’s Artem Zub had his first NHL fight against Tyler Bertuzzi.
Ottawa made it 5-1 with a second power-play goal when Giroux got a shot through traffic from the blue line.
Tkachuk rounded out the scoring tipping a shot from Giroux.
Ottawa’s Parker Kelly was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game. Detroit will be without Michael Rasmussen indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
The Senators head to New York to take on the Rangers Thursday night, while the Red Wings will host the Seattle Kraken on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2023.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press