When the Ottawa Senators sit back and evaluate their 2021-22 season so far, it would be wiser to look at recent success than the overall standings.
The Senators will complete their trip through the Sunshine State on Thursday with a stop on the Gulf Coast to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It will be another opportunity to repeat something the club has done very well lately: beat some of the NHL’s heavyweights.
Despite racking up just nine wins in their 26 games, the Senators have shown a knack lately for knocking off the league’s best — Carolina, Colorado, Tampa Bay and Florida.
All four of those teams currently slot into playoff spots.
The most recent target was the hot-starting Panthers, who have sat atop the Atlantic Division standings most of the season and were a stellar 14-1-0 at home.
Ottawa fought off two ties before ultimately tallying six unanswered goals in Tuesday’s 8-2 win — their most goals ever against the Panthers.
It marked the first eight-goal road game by the Senators since April 3, 2008, in Toronto.
Coach D.J. Smith’s special teams connected on 2-of-4 power plays, Dylan Gambrell scored his first goal with Ottawa on a short-handed marker and the penalty-kill units thwarted all six man-advantages by the Panthers.
The club also held a very noticeable 24-11 advantage in blocked shots.
The No. 1 line continued to make massive contributions: right wing Drake Batherson produced a goal and three assists, center Josh Norris had two goals and a helper, and left wing Brady Tkachuk tallied as the Senators won for the fifth time in six games (5-1-0).
Batherson has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past eight games.
“There’s a real good feeling in that room right now, but we have to make sure we stay on the pedal,” Smith said.
In Canada on Saturday, the Senators breezed to a 4-0 win against the Lightning behind Tkachuk’s first career hat trick and Anton Forsberg’s first-ever shutout.
It was the first blanking of Tampa Bay all season.
However, the defending Stanley Cup champions showed their perseverance against the visiting Los Angeles Kings in a 3-2 overtime win on Tuesday night.
Mathieu Joseph scored late in three-on-three action as his club won for the seventh time in 11 extra sessions.
On two occasions, Tampa Bay fought back to tie the first match between the teams.
In overtime, the home crowd rejoiced after Joseph’s shot on an odd-man rush struck goalie Jonathan Quick then somehow found its way into the goal.
Coach Jon Cooper saw star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy deny Anze Kopitar on a breakaway — opening up the netminder’s pads, going to his backhand but getting stuffed by a massive kick save by the Russian backstop’s left leg.
“It’s his athletic ability,” said Cooper, whose club is 6-1-0 in its past seven games. “His ability to go post-to-post and lateral is incredible.
“Not too many guys can make that save there, but he’s one of them.”
By winning in his fifth straight start, the goalie improved to 15-4-3 on the season.
Also, Vasilevskiy notched his 62nd win of the calendar year, which matched Marc-Andre Fleury’s NHL record set in 2009.
Vasilevskiy is 62-21-4 in 2021, including contests in the regular season and playoffs.
Fleury finished 62-30-6 in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
–Field Level Media
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