OTTAWA – Antoine Vermette had no goals in four career games against the team that drafted him, and the team with which he spent five seasons.
He made up for that Saturday.
Vermette scored three times—including the overtime winner—for the Phoenix Coyotes in a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon.
Vermette found a loose puck in front of Senators goalie Craig Anderson and pushed it through to the back of the net at 2:23 to give him three goals against his former team in five games.
“It’s special. It’s always going to be special here,” Vermette said. “I started my career here and there have been good memories. A little part of me will always be here and when I was driving here from the airport I was looking around and it feels like home a little bit.”
Vermette added that the win was a big one as it halted the Coyotes’ three-game slide.
“It was huge,” he said. “They were crucial points because the standings are so tight in the (Western Conference). It was a good performance and we found a way to get the two points.”
Radim Vrbata also scored for the Coyotes (19-10-6).
Kyle Turris, Zack Smith and Marc Methot scored for the Senators (14-17-7), who have now lost three straight. Methot was originally credited with the first goal of the contest, giving him a two-goal game for the first time in his career. But that was subsequently switched to Turris.
Both goaltenders, Anderson for the Senators and Mike Smith for the Coyotes, saw plenty of action as Ottawa outshot Phoenix 40-38.
Smith made solid back-to-back saves pad saves on Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur two minutes into overtime to keep the game going. On the second, off MacArthur, Smith was on his stomach and just stretched his right leg out enough to get his toe on the puck.
Seconds later Vermette scored the winner.
“I saw it when it happened and I actually thought it went in, but it was a great save, a huge save and obviously a game-changing save,” said Coyotes defenceman Keith Yandle, who logged 26:48 minutes of ice time.
He then went on to talk about the pressure of trying to tie the game in the third period.
“When you’re in a little bit of a slide it’s a character win when you’re down,” Yandle said. “Everyone did a good job getting into it and trying to get the win. There was a lot of desperation in the third when we were trying to find ourselves a goal and get back into the game.
“When it’s crunch time it amps up a little bit but it’s fun.”
It was anything but fun for the Senators, who continue to struggle.
“It’s frustrating and we have to start winning games eventually,” Senators captain Jason Spezza said, the usual grin on his face nowhere to be found.
“You just try to keep working and figure out what we have to do better and work at it. It’s not a matter of staying positive at this point it’s just trying to work our way out of it at this point and get on some sort of semblance of a roll.”
Vermette’s second goal tied the game with just 2:13 to play in the third period and forced the overtime session.
While on the power play the Coyotes were aided with two bad clearing attempts by the Senators and eventually Vermette took a pass from David Moss and deposited the puck into an empty net behind a fallen Anderson.
That inability to clear the puck has plagued the Senators this season, according to coach Paul MacLean.
“That’s been a thorn in our side all season long. The way we gave up the goal to tie the game or to lose the game, it’s the same issues we’ve had all year,” MacLean said.
“We’ve got the puck with time and we don’t clear it for whatever reason. Whether you’re paralyzed with your stick or they make a great play, the bottom line is we don’t clear the puck 200 feet and we’re fishing it out of the back of our net.”
Ottawa was on the positive side of a 2-0 score early in the second period following the goal by Turris in the first and Smith in the second.
Fresh from the penalty box, Smith got a long pass from Eric Gryba and skated in on a partial break from centre ice to beat Mike Smith high to the stick side at 3:10.
The lead was short lived though, as the Coyotes scored twice in a little more than three minutes, including once on the power play, to tie the game.
Vermette scored his first goal when he beat Anderson from the slot at 5:28. Vrbata then scored on the power play at 8:47 when he moved in from the point and beat Anderson short side with a shot that barely made it past teammate Martin Hanzal.
Methot then gave the Senators the lead back with his goal at 14:51.
Notes: Patrick Wiercioch, Joe Corvo and Mika Zibanejad were scratches for the Senators Saturday while the Coyotes elected to sit David Rundblad, David Schlemko, Paul Bissonnette and Jeff Halpern…Saturday’s game was the first time Phoenix played in Ottawa since Oct. 26, 2010 when they lost 5-2…Senators defenceman Cody Ceci turned 20 on Saturday…Erik Karlsson of the Senators, lead NHL defenceman in scoring with 34 points…The Phoenix Coyotes are the only NHL club this season the hasn’t scored a short-handed goal.