Visiting Avalanche score a weird one to beat the Senators 5-4

OTTAWA — Despite their best efforts, the Ottawa Senators came up short against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

Mikko Rantanen had a goal and two assists and Lars Eller scored a bizarre winner as the Avalanche won their fourth straight game with a 5-4 victory over the Sens.

“As a whole probably 95 per cent of the time if your team plays that hard you’re going to win. That wasn’t the case today," said Senators coach DJ Smith, whose team has lost four straight games.

Colorado defenceman Cale Makar had a goal and an assist while Valeri Nichushkin and Evan Rodrigues chipped in with a goal apiece. Nathan MacKinnon notched three assists for the Avalanche (39-22-6) and goaltender Jonas Johansson stopped 31 shots.

Drake Batherson, Shane Pinto, Travis Hamonic and Brady Tkachuk scored for the Senators (33-31-4), who dropped their fourth straight. Tim Stutzle had three assists and Mads Sogaard made 25 saves in the Sens net.

The Senators, who were coming of a long western road trip, came out sluggish. The Avalanche registered the game’s first seven shots and led 2-0 before Ottawa recorded its first shot almost eight minutes into the game.

Makar opened the scoring at 2:35 with a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff dot, and then Nichushkin made it 2-0 on a power play at the five-minute mark.

“The first goal is the biggest goal, for me,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.

“We wanted to make sure that we were energized coming out tonight. Even though it’s a back-to-back for us, it’s their first game back from a road trip and we know how difficult that can be.”

Ottawa did have 12 of the final 15 shots of the period and were rewarded with a power-play goal as Batherson redirected a slap pass from Tim Stutzle with 27 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

“We left it all out there. It’s frustrating because you want to get rewarded for all the hard work," Tkachuk said. “I though it was huge character displayed by this group with all the adversity we faced being down three going into the third, just to give us a chance, it’s disappointing.”

The Avalanche scored three times in the second period, including a very strange goal, to take a 5-2 lead.

After Rantanen gave the Avalanche a 3-1 lead at 4:23, Pinto drew the Senators back to within a goal at 3-2 eight minutes into the period. Rodrigues gave the Avalanche a 4-2 lead at 15:17, and then the weirdness happened.

On what the Senators appeared to think was an icing against the Avalanche, the puck bounced off the end boards and was in the corner of the crease by Sogaard’s pad. With Senators’ defenceman Jake Sanderson standing next to his netminder, no whistle came to end the play. After a couple of seconds, Eller skated in and jammed the puck past a confused group of Senators at 18:09.

After a lengthy review on a goaltender interference challenge from Senators coach, the goal stood.

“They said it wasn’t icing it wasn’t icing and they didn’t blow the whistle. Then our (video) guy in the back said (Eller) pushed his pad in. They reviewed it and that’s not what they got,” Smith said. “Disappointing for our guys. I thought we worked extremely hard and got a result we didn’t deserve. We came to play today, and we probably still be playing, but things happen and you can’t control them.”

Hamonic scored at 2:52 of the third period and then Tkachuk scored on the power play at 13:18 to pull the Senators to within a goal at 5-4, but they got no closer — thanks to a game-saving acrobatic stop by Johansson with five seconds to play.

"They started to bring it to us a little bit in the third, but I thought we defended well,” Rodrigues said. “Big faceoffs at the end, and a huge save from [Johansson] at the end. We got the two points. That’s what we wanted.”

NOTES — Thursday was the second and last of two meetings this season between the Senators and Avalanche. The Avalanche were 7-0 winners at home back on Jan. 14 … The Senators recalled forward Ridly Greig from the Belleville Senators … Avalanche defenceman Devon Toews appeared in his 300th career NHL game Wednesday … The Senators were 2-4 on the power play while the Avalanche went 1-3.

UP NEXT — Both teams are off until Saturday when the Avalanche will conclude their four-game road trip with a visit to the Detroit Red Wings. They will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday. The Senators will host the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday and play the Penguins in Pittsburgh Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mach 16, 2023.

Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press