OTTAWA – As Jason Spezza skated in the pre-game warm-up he told teammate Chris Kelly that he had a good feeling about the game.
That feeling led to a goal and three assists as Spezza helped the Ottawa Senators score a a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
“It’s nice to get on the board a little bit,” said Spezza, who was pointless in his last two games since returning from a groin injury. “Tonight’s the first night where I’ve felt real good skating wise and usually when I skate well it’s the strength of my game, so I felt good tonight.”
Sergei Gonchar, David Hale and Chris Kelly, with an empty net goal, also scored for the Senators, winners of four of their last five.
Matt Moulson scored the lone goal for the Islanders.
The Senators also got a solid outing from Brian Elliott, making his ninth straight start, as he stopped 28 shots.
“He’s been real solid for us lately,” said Spezza.
Dwayne Roloson made 26 saves in net for New York and struggled early on.
With the win the Senators (6-6-1) are .500 for the first time this season, while the Islanders (4-7-2) dropped their sixth straight game.
“We’ve got to just turn the page and focus on bouncing back,” said New York’s John Tavares. “We can’t be too down on ourselves for too long. We’ve got to find a way to get ourselves out of this hole and move on and get back on track.”
The Senators opened the scoring midway through the first as Spezza found Gonchar all alone coming down the wing to beat Roloson shortside.
Ottawa then scored two goals less than three minutes apart in the second period.
Hale, scoring his first as a member of the Senators, caught Roloson in the shoulder and the puck just dropped behind to cross the goal-line. Roloson then mishandled Spezza’s wrist shot and slammed his stick in frustration as Ottawa jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
With Chris Neil in the box, the Islanders took advantage of just their second power play of the game when Moulson beat a sprawled Elliott to make it 3-1 early in the third.
Elliott came up huge late in the period with the Senators short-handed as he stopped breakaways by both Blake Comeau and Frans Nielsen.
“They were two huge saves,” said Ottawa’s Chris Kelly. “You expect your goalie to make some saves, but two right in a row on the same kill was huge. Looking back that was probably two of the biggest saves this year.”
For the second straight game the Senators have allowed teams to get back in the game in the third.
If not for Elliott’s play the Islanders could have made it much closer game, but the Senators goaltender says it’s just a matter of the team learning to better protect a lead.
“We haven’t really gotten used to it that much, we just have to have practise at it,” said Elliott. “There was a little bit of a lull again so we just have to keep working at it, but going into the third with a lead like that we’ll take any day.”
The Islanders had a great chance early in the first after Ottawa’s Zach Smith was given a five-minute major for boarding, but New York managed just two shots on the power play.
“I think we kind of waited for it to happen instead of making it happen,” said Tavares. “It would have been a great opportunity to start off, but it doesn’t always go your way. You’ve just got to move forward and we tried to, but a 3-0 lead is tough to come back from.”
Notes: The Senators were without D Filip Kuba (broken right leg day-to-day), LW Milan Michalek (knee, indefinite). D Brian Lee was a healthy scratch. . . New York was without Mark Streit (shoulder surgery, indefinitely), Andrew MacDonald (broken hand, 4-6 weeks) and Milan Jurcina (hamstring, 2-3 weeks). RW Trent Hunter was a healthy scratch.