OTTAWA – Unlike Dany Heatley, Brendan Bell won’t be going to the all-star game this weekend. But that didn’t stop the Ottawa Senators’ defenceman from giving his struggling team something to feel good about during its time off.
Bell’s power-play goal with 82 seconds remaining in regulation Tuesday night gave the Senators a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in both teams’ final game before the all-star break.
“It’s great. We talked about it before the game, (playing) against a team that played the day before, we knew we could maybe jump on them early and we did,” said Bell, who spared the Senators’ blushes after they’d allowed to slip a 2-0 first-period lead courtesy of a pair of Heatley power-play markers.
Bell beat Jose Theodore with a quick shot from the right faceoff circle with Alexander Semin off for tripping, sending the sold-out crowd of 20,125 home happy, as well as his team.
Ottawa (16-21-7) has won three of the last four games and has picked up at least a point in all four. The Senators are still scrapping to stay alive in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I think the break’s going to be good for us. Hopefully, we can come back with the same mindset,” said Bell, who had been a healthy scratch for the past three games. “It’s a nice feeling.”
“It was a big goal for the team and for him,” said Heatley, who will be Ottawa’s lone representative at the all-star game in Montreal. “He was steady tonight, made some great plays five-on-five and on the power play. It was great to see him get the winner.”
Antoine Vermette assisted on all three goals and rookie Brian Eliott stopped 29 shots in goal.
Sergei Fedorov and David Steckel replied for the Capitals, who, having beaten the New York Islanders 2-1 in overtime on Monday afternoon, had their three-game win streak stopped.
Jose Theodore made 31 saves.
Alex Ovechkin entered the game with an NHL-leading 31 goals, and six goals in his four previous visits to Ottawa, but was held off the scoresheet despite registering six shots on goal.
He was also unhappy with a Mike Fisher hit in which the Senators’ centre was called for tripping after taking Ovechkin’s leg out in the second period.
“I don’t think he meant to hit me in the knee, but it was just a dangerous (play),” Ovechkin said.
Despite the loss, the Capitals (30-15-3) hit the break second overall in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Senators (16-21-7), who came into the game 13 points out of a playoff spot, remain in 13th place in the East.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was not pleased with the Capitals’ performance.
“We’re stupid. We deserved to lose,” he said. “We didn’t come to play in the first and third period. When you don’t come to play in two of the three periods, you’re not going to win the hockey game.”
It was Inauguration Day back in the U.S. and, by coincidence, the Capitals’ last visit to Ottawa was Nov. 4, the day Barack Obama was elected the American president. The Senators won that game 2-1 in overtime.
Earlier Tuesday, the Senators recalled centre Peter Regin from Binghamton of the AHL after right-winger Shean Donovan suffered a lower-body injury Sunday when he crashed into the boards during Ottawa’s annual skills competition and was unable to play.
Regin, a 22-year-old who had eight goals and 20 points in 29 games in the minors, became just the fifth Danish-born player to appear in an NHL game, following Poul Popiel (Boston, 1965-66), Frans Nielsen (N.Y. Islanders, 2006-07), Jannik Hansen (Vancouver, 2007-08) and Mikkel Boedker (Phoenix, 2008-09).
Heatley put the Senators into the lead with his 20th goal of the season midway through the first period. It’s the sixth time in his seven NHL seasons he’s hit the 20-goal plateau. He then added another before the frame was over when he threw the puck at the net and it went in off the skate of Capitals defenceman Mike Green.
Washington sprung to life in the second period, however.
Fedorov cut the lead in half just 37 seconds in and the Capitals then tied it halfway through when Steckel knocked Senators defenceman Alexandre Picard off the puck and then converted a chance from in close.
Washington outshot Ottawa 19-3 in the frame.
The Senators turned the tables in the third, holding an 18-5 advantage in the shot department, and got the winner when Bell took a cross-ice pass from Vermette and tried to thread his own pass back across the slot. The pass was blocked and rebounded back to him, and he snapped the puck past Theodore.
“We just stopped playing,” Ovechkin said.
Ottawa finished 3-for-6 with the man advantage; Washington was 0-for-5.
“It was a fortunate bounce that just landed back on my stick,” Bell said. “Anytime that you can get three goals on the power play, it’s great. Not all of them were pretty, but we’ll take them.”
Notes: The Senators were also without Anton Volchenkov (shoulder) and Chris Neil (flu). Their next game is at home to the New Jersey Devils next Tuesday. Michael Nylander was a healty scratch for the Capitals. Washington’s next game is at Boston, also on Tuesday night.