OTTAWA – Rookie Bobby Butler and veteran Jason Spezza combined to make Scotiabank Place a sweet place to be for the Ottawa Senators.
Butler scored twice and Spezza added a goal and two assists as the Senators beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Wednesday night to halt an ugly 10-game home losing streak, one short of the club record.
“It’s been a while and the crowd was good for us tonight and it was nice to give them a win and get one here at home and end that losing streak,”Spezza said.
Ottawa (20-31-9) lost 11 straight home games back in 1993, the franchise’s second year in the league. Prior to Wednesday night, the Senators’ last home victory was a 3-1 decision over Pittsburgh on Dec. 26.
And that marked the last time the Senators had won two straight games but Butler gave them the lead in the first period and added another goal in the second. That gives him five goals in five games playing alongside Spezza.
“I feel good in practice with (Spezza) and he’s a great player so he makes it easier out there to stay confident,”said Butler.
The 23-year-old right-winger failed to register a point in two previous four-game callups from Binghamton of the AHL but now has seven (five goals, two assists) in his current six-game stint with the NHL club.
Ryan Shannon added a power-play goal and an assist for Ottawa, Milan Michalek also scored and goaltender Craig Anderson, a former member of the Panthers, stopped 23 shots to win in his home debut after being acquired last week for Brian Elliott.
Rookie Colin Greening had an assist for his first career point.
In his first game for the Senators on Saturday night in Toronto, Anderson stopped 47 shots in a 1-0 shootout win.
“Making good first impressions is key—getting out there and having a good start for a home crowd,”Anderson said.“Guys did their job tonight, scored some goals, made some big plays defensively and made my job real easy.”
It helped that the Panthers (25-28-7) weren’t very good. Chris Higgins had their lone goal as they lost for the fourth time in five games.
“That was ugly,”Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said.“Credit to Ottawa, they played hard and did what they had to do to beat us, but we didn’t put up much of a fight.”
Scott Clemmensen finished with 29 saves for Florida, which went into the game eight points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot but played like a team that has no playoff future.
“We had a real good week last week, we beat San Jose, beat Tampa in Tampa, played Detroit real tough and then to come in this week and we lose on the Island (to New York on Monday) and lose here with two poor efforts—outscored 10-2—there’s no excuse for it,”DeBoer said.“I’m sure the players will say it’s the trade deadline weighing on their mind, but I don’t buy it.”
Panthers defenceman Jack Skille departed midway through the game after he chased the puck into the corner in the Ottawa zone and went down following a hit. He had to be helped off the ice by teammates and DeBoer said he suffered a high ankle sprain to his right leg and“is probably out for a while.”
Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson was a late scratch because of an upper-body injury and Chris Neil left in the second with a lower-body injury and did not return. The status of both players will be updated Thursday.
The Senators beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on the road Dec. 23, then came back from the Christmas break to beat the Penguins.
Since then, Scotiabank Place has not been very hospitable but Ottawa caught an early break when Butler’s pass attempt to Nick Foligno in front of the net went off Panthers defenceman Mike Weaver and past Clemmensen.
Ottawa made it 2-0 early in the second on a power play when Shannon, playing the point, ripped a shot from the top of the faceoff circle.
Anderson gave up his first goal as a Senator at 4:18 mark of the second when Higgins’shot deflected in off Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips.
However, Butler restored the two-goal advantage with a nice individual effort, walking out from the corner and firing a wrist shot in over Clemmensen’s shoulder.
“Buttsy’s played great. You can see the chemistry is building, you can see his confidence is building and he’s starting to shoot the puck real well,”said Spezza.
Ottawa added a couple of late goals when Michalek scored on a rebound and Spezza capped a 2-on-1 break by keeping the puck and scoring.
NOTES—Attendance was 16,520.…Karlsson’s spot in the lineup was taken by Andre Benoit and the Senators also got Chris Campoli after the defenceman sat out the past two games with a lower-body injury.…The Senators recalled centre Jim O’Brien from Binghamton on Wednesday after Jesse Winchester was deemed not yet ready to return from a knee injury that’s kept him out for six games, including Wednesday’s contest.