OTTAWA — Goaltender Craig Anderson sees him team playing with a different structure as of late. And it’s paying off with victories.
The victory allowed the Senators to string together its first three-game winning streak since Nov.19-24 and puts them four points back of Pittsburgh, which has three games in hand, for the final wild card in the East.
“I like the style we’re playing right now,” said Anderson. “It’s very conservative and we’re not run-and-gun right now. We’re playing consistent and together as a group and it’s getting us some wins so it’s some positive reinforcement for us.”
Detroit has now lost three straight on the road.
“I thought in the end it was a fairly even game,” said Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill. “I told the guys that we could play great and not win, that’s the reality sometimes, and I’m not saying we played great, but certainly a lot better and we’ve got to do the same thing (Sunday).”
The Senators have struggled when giving up the first goal this season (11-23-6), but were able to change its fortune on this night thanks to its newest player.
Trailing 2-1 with just under four minutes remaining in regulation Phaneuf ripped a shot through traffic and beat Mrazek far side to force overtime bringing the crowd to its feet.
“To be received like that after scoring it’s something I’ll never forget as a player,” said Phaneuf.
“The way that they cheered and I saw it. It was a special moment for me, but the bottom line is that we found a way to win a game against a team that we’re chasing.”
Ottawa coach Dave Cameron says it’s no coincidence the team is playing better since Phaneuf joined the squad.
“You can’t overestimate what Dion Phaneuf has done in terms of our top-four defencemen and the breakouts, the D-zone coverage. All those things have improved since Dion came here,” said Cameron. “You add a real good player in the back end as a top-four defenceman and you get on a bit of a roll and that all adds to the confidence.”
Anderson got the 18,930 on hand at Canadian Tire Centre in the game with a double-stack pad save on Justin Abdelkader early in the first period.
“It’s funny because we played so well on the road for a stretch of time there, but now we seem to have gotten away from that,” said Abdelkader. “Every time you’re on the road you’ve got to play a more simple game and even at the start of this game we were turning pucks over and weren’t getting pucks behind.”
The Red Wings opened the scoring at 10:46 of the second as Erik Karlsson made a brutal giveaway, putting the puck right on the stick of Athanasiou, who quickly beat Anderson.
Ottawa tied the game exactly one minute later when Jean-Gabriel Pageau found Smith skating through the slot and he redirected the puck through Mrazek’s legs. Smith tied a career high for goals with his 14th of the season.
Detroit regained the lead late in the second on an unlucky play for Karlsson, who attempted to bat the puck out of the air but sent it right past Anderson instead. Richards was given credit for the goal.
“That was a tough period for number 65 and the Ottawa Senators,” said Karlsson. “But great team effort. I don’t think it fazed us at all. I didn’t think about it at the time, I thought I was playing a good game and just kept doing the same thing. Those things happen and it didn’t discourage our team.”
The Red Wings had a scare early in the game as Mrazek appeared shaken after taking a Patrick Wiercioch shot early in the period, but he remained in the game.
The Senators now head out for a three-game western road trip, while Detroit will wrap up its four-game road trip Sunday against the New York Rangers.
Notes: Senators C Shane Prince and D Chris Wideman were healthy scratches for the Senators. Detroit’s leading scorer C Dylan Larkin was unable to play due to illness and D Jonathan Ericsson missed his fourth straight game due to a lower-body injury. D Jakub Kindl was a healthy scratch.