OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators are getting healthy and they’re getting nasty.
Craig Anderson made 32 saves to lead Ottawa to its third straight win, a physical 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Defenceman Jared Cowen was playing his first game since undergoing hip surgery in November that was expected to end his season. He finished the game with a little under 17 minutes of ice time and two fights.
“I was looking to get some bumps and feel a little more comfortable. It was a couple more bumps than I was expecting but it was good and it went well for me,” said Cowen, who had played just three games this season, all with the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators.
“I’m not complaining. I’m surprised that’s the way it went down but I welcome it for sure. I think it’s the first two-fight game I’ve had since junior, but I like it.”
Cowen laid out Carolina forward Jeff Skinner with a clean hit at centre ice 13 minutes into the game. Cowen immediately fought Chad LaRose who came to the defence of Skinner and took 17 minutes of penalties in the process.
Skinner did not return to the game.
Cowen then fought Kevin Westgarth in the second period after Westgarth drew an initial roughing penalty.
“If you mess with one of us you get all of us,” said Westgarth. “That’s where we are right now and it’s a really important thing for a hockey club and it’s good to see.
“We would have liked to have beaten them down on the scoreboard too but unfortunately we weren’t able to get it done.”
Milan Michalek was playing just his 16th game of the season and second since returning from a knee injury. He had a goal and a fight.
Mika Zibanejad, Cory Conacher and Chris Neil—who also fought—all added goals for Ottawa (22-14-6), allowing the Senators to remain alone in sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Justin Faulk and Eric Staal replied for the Hurricanes (17-23-2), who got 31 saves from Justin Peters. Staal also had an assist.
The Senators had Monday’s game with the Bruins postponed after the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. That forced Ottawa back home through tightened security measures.
Ottawa had its best opportunities in the opening period and those chances came early. Kyle Turris and Conacher each had partial breakaways in the opening minutes of the game but were unable to convert.
A scoreless tie was broken at 17:22 of the first period when Zibanejad converted a pass from Coacher who swung around the net and fed Zibanejad in front.
The Senators increased their lead six minutes into the second period on Michalek’s snap shot that beat Peters on the far side.
“I’m just trying to get back in game shape. So far it’s going good and hopefully it will keep going that way,” said Michalek, who fought Marc-Andre Bergeron late in the game.
“I try not to think about it during the game and just try to play my game. If something happens it happens but I can’t be cautious because that would probably be worse for me. I’ve been injured a lot and had some bad luck. Hopefully it’s turning.”
The lead was back to one however, exactly four minutes later as Anderson got some, but not enough, of Faulk’s shot from the slot.
After some pressure from the Hurricanes the Senators broke out on a two-on-one that ended with Neil redirecting a pass from Guillaume Latendresse past Peters at the edge of the Carolina crease at 17:12.
Staal scored a late power-play goal but the Hurricanes were unable to rally any further.
“As always it’s back to the drawing board after a win or a loss,” Westgarth said. “You have to get ready for that next game immediately and take what you can from mistakes that were made, learn from it and move on and be ready for that next opponent.”
Notes: Scratched from Tuesday’s game were Jim O’Brien, Matt Kassian, Mike Lundin, Peter Regin and Andre Benoit…Out for the Hurricanes was Drayson Bowman, Joni Pitkanen, Tim Wallace and Tim Brent…Tuesday was Peter Regin’s 27th birthday…Senator’s forward Kyle Turris remains one point shy of 100 for his career…Hurricane’s defenceman Joe Corvo is one point away from 300 in his career…Ottawa has a 7-5-1 record against the Southeast Division this season while the Hurricanes are 8-7-0 against the Northeast…Carolina and Ottawa are ranked 1-2 in the NHL in shots per game with 32.8 and 32.4 respectively.