OTTAWA – To say the Ottawa Senators’ win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night was big would be an understatement.
For a team that just last week was in free fall in the Eastern Conference, things are looking up. Following a 4-1 victory over one of the NHL’s best teams, they’re looking way up, in fact.
“It means a lot for us, especially going forward,” said centre Peter Regin, who had a goal and an assist to help the Senators record their fourth win in a row after they’d lost five straight. “We know we can beat the best teams in the league. We know we’ve had a little slump lately, but the last four games we’ve showed we’re a good hockey team.”
In an impressive display against the Blackhawks, who entered Tuesday night’s action tied with the San Jose Sharks for the lead in both the Western Conference and the overall NHL standings, Regin set up Ryan Shannon for what turned out to be the eventual game-winner and added an insurance marker before a crowd of 17,556 at Scotiabank Place.
Zack Smith and Mike Fisher, with a late power-play goal for his team-leading 17th marker of the season, also scored for the Senators (26-21-4).
Elliott, who backstopped Ottawa to a 5-1 win in Boston on Monday afternoon, made another 29 saves to halt the Blackhawks’ three-game win streak and hand Chicago its first loss to Ottawa in more than six years.
“This is a big win,” Elliott said. “We used it as a measuring stick against what we’re doing right now and how our game is coming along. Playing a team like that, who’s offensive, and kind of turning the game on them was good.
“It just shows that we can compete with any team in the league, and not only compete, but get a convincing win and trust in our system that we can beat any team on any given night when our heads are in the right place with everybody being on the same page.”
Chris Neil added a pair of assists for the Senators.
Marian Hossa scored the lone goal for the Blackhawks (32-12-4) while short-handed and Cristobal Huet finished with 14 saves.
The Blackhawks had beaten Columbus in back-to-back games and edged Detroit in a shootout Sunday, although their latter two wins had both come by a mere goal.
Playing the third game of a season-long eight-game road trip, they ran into Senators a team that was playing at home for the first time since coming off their own five-game road swing.
“It was 60 minutes of flat hockey and probably one of our worst games in a while, so the good news is we can get right back on track this week and try and put this one behind us,” Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews said.
Chicago went 0-for-5 on the power play.
“Every time we had a power play or an opportunity to get some momentum, we didn’t do anything with it,” Toews said. “They’re a confident team right now and we had to know that going in.”
The last time the Senators beat the Blackhawks was on Dec. 18, 2003, when Hossa still played for Ottawa. He had two goals and an assist in a 6-1 triumph over visiting Chicago.
Of course, with the teams in separate conferences, they’d only played three times since heading into Tuesday’s night’s game, with the Blackhawks winning all three times.
Fortune was on Ottawa’s side early as Chicago’s first attempt at goal, a shot from the point from Cam Barker, was redirected by Dustin Byfuglien past Elliott, but it struck the goal post and bounced out of harm’s way.
Neil intercepted a pass by Brent Seabrook deep in the Blackhawks’ zone to set up Smith and Regin set up Shannon for a 2-0 Senators’ lead.
Hossa, who has 19 points in 13 career games against the Senators, cut the lead to 2-1 early in the second on a short-handed breakaway, but Regin scored on a wraparound to restore the two-goal advantage before the period was over.
Elliott came up with the save of the night to preserve the lead after he turned the puck over while coming out of the net to play it when it was dumped in behind his net. As it skipped out front of the unguarded cage, he managed to dive in front and get his stick on a Hossa’s point-blank shot.
The goaltending display was far better than what the Senators had been used to seeing during its slump.
“The goaltending held us in the game and gave us a chance and that was a big part of it,” said Fisher, who rounded out the scoring during a late power play after taking a pass from Nick Foligno in the slot.
Notes: The Senators received good news on the injury front earlier Tuesday when coach Cory Clouston said left-winger Milan Michalek (concussion) could return for Thursday’s games at home to St. Louis. Centre Jason Spezza (knee) could be back Saturday when Ottawa travels to Boston. … Defenceman Alexandre Picard was a healthy scratch for the Senators. … Blackhawks centre Patrick Sharp saw his five-game point-scoring streak come to an end. … Chicago fell to 13-7-2 all-time against Ottawa. … The Blackhawks travel west to Calgary, where they’ll face the Flames on Thursday night.