PHILADELPHIA – Ottawa was reeling, a solid playoff spot suddenly slipping away.
With a timely power play and a fast breakaway, Colin Greening put the Senators back on track.
Greening scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period, and the Senators snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
Flyers forward Claude Giroux was hit with a double-minor penalty for high-sticking with 6:07 left. Greening buried a wrister past Ilya Bryzgalov for his eighth goal 31 seconds later for the 2-1 lead.
“I just saw an opening with the goalie, and I didn’t know how far back the defenceman was,” Greening said. “I just knew there was a defenceman on me, and I had to make a choice. I just chose to shoot it.”
The Senators won for the first time since March 28. They had lost the first four games of a seven-game trip and claimed sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They are tied in points with the New York Islanders, two points in front of the eighth-place New York Rangers.
“Because of the situation we’re in, we’re just so happy to get out of here with two points,” Greening said.
Daniel Alfredsson scored an empty-net goal with 6.9 seconds left. Zack Smith also scored for Ottawa, and Robin Lehner made 24 saves.
“We’re sitting in a playoff spot, but we can’t keep losing,” Lehner said. “We have to start getting some points and try to get in with some momentum. I think this is a good start.”
The Flyers’ slide continued with their third straight loss. Giroux had the lone goal for the punchless offence.
Much like they have for most of the season, the Flyers struggled to score. The Flyers’ four-game winning streak earlier this month stirred hope they could make a late playoff push. But they scored two goals total in the last two games, both losses, and entered Thursday seven points out of a playoff spot.
With eight games left, the Flyers are running out of time.
“To make the playoffs, you’ve got to win games, and right now we’re not winning games,” Giroux said. “We’ve got to find a way to win those games.”
Philadelphia forward Scott Hartnell said after Thursday’s morning skate that the team would need an “epic ending” to make the playoffs. This wasn’t a great start.
They took only 14 shots through the first two periods and needed Bryzgalov and a stout penalty kill to keep this one tight.
Bryzgalov had come under scrutiny this week for shutting his eyes and yawning on the bench during a loss last weekend to Winnipeg. He was later anonymously accused by some teammates of sleeping—or at least pretending to doze off—during a team meeting on Monday.
Bryzgalov scolded the media for the report and called it “embarrassing.”
“That was never happening,” he said.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is on the hot seat, three years after leading the team to the Stanley Cup finals. On April 11, 2012, the Flyers beat the Penguins 4-3 in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The Flyers won that series in six games.
Giroux was touted by some as the “best in the world” after a sensational post-season and was named captain entering this season. His production has dipped as have the numbers of just about every key Flyers player.
Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere have missed chunks of time because of injuries, and they could have a long off-season to recover. With a hefty salary and declining production, Briere knows the Flyers could use one of their amnesty buyouts on him.
Bryzgalov and Briere’s futures will be decided in the off-season. For the Flyers, that is coming sooner than they would like.
“We are in the business of winning hockey games,” Laviolette said. “Not getting that done is frustrating.”
Smith was alone on a short breakaway attempt, and backhanded the puck past Bryzgalov for his fourth goal only 3:20 into the first.
After an interference penalty was whistled against Ottawa, the Flyers capitalized on the short-handed attempt. Giroux tipped in Simon Gagne’s shot to make it 1-1.
The Senators were only 1 for 6 on the power play—but Greening’s goal came at just the right time.
“These guys are trying to score, and they’re trying to do things right,” coach Paul MacLean said. “As long as we continue to work on it, we’ll get there. Tonight, they came together, and they ended up winning the game for us.”
NOTES: The Flyers signed RW Petr Straka to an entry-level contract, effective at the start of the 2013-14 season. A native of Plzen, Czech Republic, Straka was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round of the 2010 draft. … Giroux scored his first short-handed goal of the year and just the second for the Flyers this season. … Senators C Jean-Gabriel Pageau made his NHL debut.