The Ottawa Senators became a much better team once they had a lead to protect.
Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza each had a goal and an assist in the second period to give Ottawa its first lead at the end of a period this season, and the Senators went on to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 on Thursday night.
Daniel Alfredsson scored in the third and Michalek scored his second of the game into an empty net as Spezza also finished with three points with his second assist.
“We’ve been tough on ourselves here because we haven’t played the way that we want,” Alfredsson said. “I mentioned it to a few guys, ‘Let’s see how we can handle playing with the lead. I think we’ll be a pretty good team.’ My third goal was a perfect example, where we’re just waiting and waiting. They have to force plays and we turn it over and score.
“It’s important to get the lead and we were able to protect it pretty good.”
Craig Anderson made 35 saves to help Ottawa end a three-game losing streak. The Senators (2-5-0) claimed their first win in regulation in seven games.
“My mindset is the game’s always 0-0. My job is to make that next save,” Anderson said. “As far as the guys, I can’t speak for them but playing with the lead’s a lot easier than chasing from behind. You don’t have to make high-risk plays when you’re playing with the lead. You force the other team to try to do the high-risk manoeuvrs and you capitalize on their mistakes.”
Elsewhere in the NHL, it was: Vancouver 5 Nashville 1; N.Y. Rangers 3 Calgary 2 (OT); Minnesota 2 Edmonton 1 (SO); Boston 6 Toronto 2; Pittsburgh 3 Montreal 1; Washington 5 Philadelphia 2; Tampa Bay 4 N.Y. Islanders 1; Buffalo 3 Florida 0; Chicago 3 Colorado 1; and Los Angeles 2 Phoenix 0.
At Ottawa, Dustin Byfuglien scored his first goal for Winnipeg (1-4-1). Ondrej Pavelec stopped 26 shots in his third start in four nights, including a 4-3 shootout loss in Toronto on Wednesday.
The Jets had claimed three of four points in their previous two games after getting off to an 0-3 start.
“If you play back to back, you have to play even smarter,” Pavelec said. “I wouldn’t say we were tired. We just couldn’t find a way to win.”
Spezza drew an assist on Michalek’s power-play goal 4:48 into the second that tied it at 1. Spezza teamed up with Michalek again at 13:19 to make it 2-1.
Ottawa had not led at the end of a period in any of its previous six games, including a 4-3 shootout win over Minnesota in its Oct. 11 home opener.
“It’s a much better position to play with a lead,” Spezza said. “As you see in the third period on Alfie’s goal, it forces them to make the mistakes instead of us being the ones making mistakes. When you’re down, you’re trying to make something happen and that’s when mistakes are made. There, we sit back and were patient, and Alf makes them pay and it’s a 3-1 game.
“It’s a much easier hockey league to play in when you get the lead so it’s good that we got that going in the third.”
Byfuglien opened the scoring 14:39 in. Alexander Burmistrov passed to Byfuglien, who drove a slap shot from the point past Anderson.
Michalek tied it when he put away a rebound of Colin Greening’s backhand for his fourth goal on a power play 4:48 into the second. Greening got his second straight assist on Spezza’s go-ahead goal.
Alfredsson made it a 3-1 lead with an unassisted effort for his third goal 9:15 into the third. He intercepted Johnny Oduya’s pass up the middle and drove in to beat Pavelec for his 392nd career goal.
Jets coach Claude Noel pulled Pavelec during a power play with just under 5 minutes left in the third.
“It’s kind of a creative move on the power play,” Spezza said. “It created a bit of chaos for us. You don’t see stuff like that a lot. With new coaches in the league there are going to be different quirks. You’re not used to seeing a goalie out that early and it would have been nice if we could have buried one right away and taken the relief away but we did a good job.”
Senators centre Peter Regin suffered a shoulder injury in the first period. He left the game and did not return.
Capitals 5, Flyers 2
At Philadelphia, Ovechkin scored two goals and the Capitals used a three-goal third period to beat the Flyers.
Blackhawks 3, Avalanche 1
At Denver, Patrick Sharp broke a tie early in the third period and Chicago beat Colorado to snap the Avalanche’s winning streak at five games.
Penguins 3, Canadiens 1
At Pittsburgh, James Neal scored his NHL-leading seventh goal of the season to help Pittsburgh down Montreal.
Brian Gionta scored with less than 2 minutes to go for the Canadiens, who have lost four straight.
Bruins 6, Maple Leafs 2
At Boston, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin had a goal and two assists each as the Bruins handed Toronto its first regulation loss this season.
David Steckel gave Toronto the lead 7:29 into the game and Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski finished the scoring.
Sabres 3, Panthers 0
At Sunrise, Fla., Thomas Vanek scored twice as Buffalo defeated Florida.
Lightning 4, Islanders 1
At Tampa, Fla., Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and an assist to help Tampa Bay stop a five-game losing streak with a victory over New York.
Wild 2, Oilers 1 (SO)
At Edmonton, Dany Heatley tied it with two seconds left in regulation and Matt Cullen scored the shootout winner in the Minnesota Wild’s comeback victory.
Rangers 3, Flames 2 (OT)
At Calgary, defenceman Ryan McDonagh scored with two seconds remaining in overtime to give the New York Rangers a victory over the Flames.
Kings 2, Coyotes 0
At Glendale, Ariz., Jonathan Quick made 28 saves for his second straight shutout, leading the Los Angeles Kings over the Phoenix Coyotes.
Canucks 5, Predators 1
At Vancouver, Henrik and Daniel Sedin each had a goal and assist during a four-goal first period that chased Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne and lifted the Vancouver Canucks over the Predators.