OTTAWA – Chris Phillips couldn’t have scripted a better night.
The Ottawa defenceman scored twice, including the game-winner, in his 1,000th NHL game and the Senators stopped a seven-game winless streak with a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
“This is unbelievable,” Phillips said. “The whole hype around it was fun and exciting to be in my 1,000th game and to top it off with a couple goals and one ended up being a game winner–you can’t write that stuff.”
Jason Spezza scored twice for the Senators (28-22-7), while Bobby Butler, playing his first game after being a healthy scratch for the last three, had two assists.
Alex Auld, making his first start since Dec. 30th, faced 27 shots.
Gabriel Bourque, Patric Hornqvist and Martin Erat scored for the Predators (32-18-5). Pekka Rinne stopped 25 shots.
Former Senator Mike Fisher made his return to Ottawa since being traded to the Predators last February. Fisher was honoured by the Senators midway through the first period with a video montage and a standing ovation from the 18,500 in attendance.
“I definitely appreciated it and it meant a lot to me for sure,” Fisher said. “I said earlier I almost wished I wore a tinted visor because I was a bit emotional.”
Fisher said he was thrilled to see Phillips, a former teammate and good friend, have such a big night.
“I was really happy for him,” Fisher said. “He played real well. He stole the show for sure.”
Leading 3-2 heading into the third, the Senators played with a desperation that hadn’t been seen of late. They were strong on the forecheck and kept the Predators’ offensive chances to a minimum.
Phillips scored the winner on the power play with just over six minutes remaining as he banged home Filip Kuba’s rebound.
It was Phillips’ fourth career two-goal game. The last time he accomplished the feat was in his 800th game in 2009.
“I think (Phillips) scoring two goals proves there’s hockey gods in rewarding a great person,” Spezza said. “He’s a great teammate, he’s a guy that’s highly regarded in this room and I don’t think there’s a guy in this room that isn’t happy for him and to see him have the night he had was a pretty special night for him.”
Erat added a late goal for the Predators.
Despite giving up a late goal in the dying minutes of the first, the Senators came out with a solid effort to start the second.
Phillips’ first goal of the game, his first in 75 games, gave the Senators the lead, but the Predators tied the game when Hornqvist scored on the power play. The puck seemed to take a strange bounce as Auld looked totally unprepared for the shot.
Auld played a solid game for the Senators and was particularly good in the third when the team needed him most.
“I thought he was aggressive in the third period and met the puck at the top of the crease and really gave us a solid effort,” said Senators coach Paul Maclean.
Ottawa finished the second with a 3-2 lead as Spezza picked up his second of the game.
Spezza jammed the puck past Rinne on the power play as bodies scrambled for a loose puck in the crease.
The Senators opened the scoring at the four-minute mark as Spezza beat Rinne over the left shoulder for his first goal in eight games.
“It’s a big game and I hadn’t been producing offensively and our line has to be good offensively for us to win games,” Spezza said.
Bourque tied 1-1 as he beat Auld through the legs with just over a minute remaining in the first.
Notes: After missing 11 games with a lower body injury Brian Lee was back in the line-up. … The Senators were without C Peter Regin (shoulder, out for season), C Jesse Winchester (concussion, indefinitely). D Matt Carkner and C Zenon Konopka were healthy scratches. Nashville was without LW Brian McGrattan (upper body, day-to-day). RW Brandon Yip and D Jack Hillen were a healthy scratch.…Fisher’s wife, country superstar Carrie Underwood, was in town for the game.