OTTAWA – A frenzied finish couldn’t mask another poor start for the Ottawa Senators.
Craig Anderson turned aside 41 shots and former Senators forward Cory Stillman had a goal and an assist to lead the Florida Panthers to a 3-1 win over listless Ottawa. Rostislav Olesz and Nathan Horton also scored for the Panthers, while Anderson was sensational – particularly in the third period, when he turned aside all 26 shots he faced. That broke the Senators’ previous record for shots in a period (25), set in the first period of a 5-2 win over Phoenix on March 21, 2001.
Daniel Alfredsson had the lone goal for the Senators, while Gerber made 21 saves but was shaky early on, allowing two goals in the opening 5:33 to put Ottawa down for good.
Head coach Craig Hartsburg has preached patience to his players, and is asking for the same from Senators fans. But with Ottawa now 1-3 on a pivotal five-game homestand early in the season, he realizes that he needs to start getting a complete game out of his team.
“It’s not an easy path,” he said. “But I believe the players believe this is the right one. We didn’t have a great start. That’s the hockey game. We lose the hockey game because we don’t start the right way.”
Ottawa forward Mike Fisher said the first-period meltdown was his team’s undoing.
“We made some mistakes and then the puck was in our net,” said Fisher. “They came out strong and capitalized on things right away and Anderson was great.”
Anderson was making his first start of the season, and was just hoping for a solid outing.
“I’m excited to get this one out of the way,” said Anderson. “I just tried to stay focused. I knew they would come out strong, but the defence played really well. It was a team win.”
Looking to shake up his team, Hartsburg mixed his lines heading into the game – but the Senators (2-3-1) appeared bewildered right from the start.
The Panthers (3-3-0) took advantage, scoring on their second shot at 4:45 as Gerber lost sight of the puck during a scramble in front of the crease. Olesz was credited for the goal.
The Panthers made it 2-0 just 48 seconds later as Horton beat Gerber with a quick shot over the left shoulder, leaving the 18,952 on hand at Scotiabank Place with little to cheer about.
“The whole first period we didn’t move the puck out of our end,” said Hartsburg. “When we don’t move the puck out of our end we don’t allow us to get pressure up ice.”
Ottawa looked to finally turn things around late in the period as they believed they had scored on the power play, but the goal was disallowed after Alfredsson deflected the puck with a high stick.
The Senators finally scored on a man advantage early in the second as Alfredsson jammed the puck between Anderson’s legs. Ottawa finished the night 1-for-6 on the power play, while Florida was 0-for-4.
Frustration appears to be setting in, but Alfredsson said he and his teammates can’t allow themselves to focus on poor performances.
“Every game you lose is frustrating. Professional sport is in the spotlight every night,” he said. “You lose you don’t feel too good, but you just have to prepare and be ready for the next one.”
Stillman made it 3-1 midway through the second, sneaking the puck past Gerber on the short side.
Ottawa dominated the third period – outshooting the Panthers 26-3 – but Anderson was outstanding. The Senators had a great opportunity in the dying minutes when David Booth was handed a double-minor for high sticking, but once again Anderson was solid, robbing Vermette with a great glove save.
Hartsburg praised Jason Spezza, who was moved off the top line with Alfredsson and Dany Heatley. Spezza centred rookies Nick Foligno and Jesse Winchester in Wednesday’s game.
“I thought he worked hard, he competed hard,” said Hartsburg. “He skated and that’s the best all-around game I’ve seen him play. To me that’s a real positive for Jason. He can make another line better; I thought he did a great job.”
The Senators host the Anaheim Ducks on Friday in a rematch of the 2007 Stanley Cup final.
Notes: The Senators assigned D Brian Lee to the AHL’s Binghamton Senators. … RW Shean Donovan was a healthy scratch. RW Christoph Schubert played his first game of the regular season. … Ottawa saw its streak of 39 consecutive sellouts come to an end Wednesday. … The Panthers are without D Bryan Allen (knee, day-to-day), D Bryan McCabe (lower back, out indefinitely), C Anthony Stewart and RW Wade Belak were healthy scratches.