OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators know they can’t let many more games slip past them.
“It’s tough to stay positive after you lose a game when you’re eight or 10 points out of the playoffs,” said Ottawa’s Mark Stone. “We need to win games right now.
“They went 3-for-4 (on the power play) and we went 2-for-4, so I guess that was the main difference. I thought we played pretty well, we just couldn’t capitalize on some of our chances.”
Nathan MacKinnon and Blake Comeau, into an empty net, also scored for the Avalanche (28-25-4), who led 3-0 before Ottawa pulled within a goal in the second period. Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves as Colorado snapped a four-game losing skid.
“It’s tough being down 3-0 and it’s a hard hole to climb out of, but I thought we did a good job sticking with it,” said Senators forward Chris Neil. “These are points that we need. We’ve got to win games.”
Neil scored with 26 seconds left after Comeau’s empty-netter in the third but the Senators couldn’t complete the comeback. Stone and Mike Hoffman also scored for Ottawa (25-25-6) while Andrew Hammond turned aside 23 shots in goal.
Dion Phaneuf, in his home debut for Ottawa, had two assists, and received two loud ovations during the game.
“That was nice, and that was an extremely classy move by the fans to welcome me to Ottawa. I felt it and I appreciate it,” said Phaneuf, who was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday and made his Senators’ debut Wednesday in Detroit.
The Senators pressed hard in the third and despite having the only power play of the final period, fell short of ever tying the game.
“Ottawa had some momentum going into the third so to be able to hold them off was big,” Iginla said. “They’ve got some good offence on their side.”
The first five goals of the game came with the man advantage.
Iginla scored his first, and the game’s first goal, when he put the puck past Hammond at 9:16 of the opening period. Hammond nearly made a spectacular arm save from his stomach on the Iginla shot, but the puck barely made its way across the goal line.
The Avalanche took a 3-0 lead with goals from MacKinnon and Iginla at 2:26 and 6:54 respectively of the second period.
MacKinnon scored on the rush, beating Hammond with a rising shot from the slot. Iginla followed that up with a one-timer from the face-off circle off a pass from Tyson Barrie, just 15 seconds after Erik Karlsson was sent off for interference.
The Senators rebounded to score a pair of power-play goals of their own before the second period was done.
Karlsson and Phaneuf made a couple of passes along the blue line before Phaneuf’s point shot was tipped in by Stone at 11:15, just 10 seconds after Cody McLeod was penalized for holding. Phaneuf’s assist was his first point in a Senators uniform.
“Those guys with the net-front job, it’s one of the toughest jobs in the game. It takes a lot of skill to tip pucks,” said Phaneuf, who added he was a lot more comfortable Thursday than Wednesday. “Stone is a big body who’s got a really good stick. I knew that from playing against him and now I’ve seen it. I’ve only been here a short time but I know he’s got good hands in front and he showed it.”
Karlsson and Phaneuf teamed up again with Hoffman burying a one-timer past Varlamov at 19:52.
NOTES: Defenceman Chris Wideman was the lone scratch for the Senators while defencemen Nate Guenin and Zach Redmond were scratches for the Avalanche. Karlsson’s two assists pulled him to within four assists of tying Alexei Yashin for fourth place among all-time Senators. Ottawa plays the Blue Jackets in Columbus Saturday while the Avalanche visit Detroit on Friday.