OTTAWA – Jason Smith’s first point as an Ottawa Senator couldn’t have come at a better time.
Smith’s first goal of the season at 3:30 of overtime lifted the Senators to a 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
Smith beat Stars netminder Turco short side after taking a great pass from Dany Heatley, who picked up his 500th career point on the play. For Smith, the goal was his first in 104 games and gave him his first point in 30 games since joining the Senators in the off-season.
“I don’t score very many, but it’s obviously nice to score a goal and help the team get a big win,” said Smith.
The Senators (12-14-5), losers of their last two and five of its last six, finally managed to win a game and create some offence. Ottawa ranked last in the league in goals (68) coming into the game, and had only scored five goals in its last five games.
The Stars (13-14-5), making their first visit to Ottawa in three years, have problems of their own as they sit in the basement of the Pacific Division.
“We gave that point away,” said Stars coach Dave Tippett. “I don’t think our goaltending was that great. I think (Turco) could have stopped a couple.”
The win could restore some of Ottawa’s confidence as the Senators head out for a stretch of eight straight road games due to the world junior championship being held in Ottawa.
“It was a real good game by our team,” said Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg. “I’m really proud of them. They played like a team, they battled, they worked, paid a big price and kind of fitting that Jason Smith scores the winning goal for us in a game like that. That’s a huge win for our team.”
The win may have come at a price. Captain Daniel Alfredsson suffered an upper body injury midway through the second as he attempted to gain possession of the puck along the left boards as he was hit by Jere Lehtinen.
“I’ll come in (Sunday) and evaluate it again,” said Alfredsson following the game. “I don’t think (it’s too serious). I haven’t seen the replay, but I know he’s there and I tried to get out of the way.
Alfredsson, Antoine Vermette, Jason Spezza and Alexandre Picard also scored for the Senators. Martin Gerber faced 29 shots.
The Stars had goals from Matt Niskanen, Brad Richards, Toby Petersen and Loui Eriksson, who scored his sixth goal in the last three games. Turco made 27 saves.
Turco wasn’t happy with his own play and admitted he could have done better.
“It’s games like the last two that constitute the season,” said Turco. “Even though bad things are happening you’ve got to stay in the moment and that’s the way we have to look at every game. It’s an interesting time right now.”
The Senators struck first, as Alfredsson beat Turco with a wrist shot to the far side. However, the period ended poorly for Ottawa as Gerber allowed Niskanen to score a weak goal and tie the game.
Ottawa regained the lead early in the second on a power-play goal from Vermette, his first in 19 games.
“It’s nice, no doubt about it, especially it coming with the win,” said Vermette. “It’s a big relief and it’s a big game for us and hopefully we can build on that. It’s great.”
The Stars tied the game with a power-play goal of their own as Richards carried the puck uncontested from the side boards into the slot and beat Gerber glove side.
Dallas took the lead at the halfway point of the period as Gerber gave up a weak goal to Petersen.
The Senators used the power play to their advantage again as Spezza tied the game midway through the second, beating Turco at the side of the net to give the 19,486 on hand something to cheer about.
Ottawa took the lead in the opening minutes of the third with its third power-play goal of the game as Picard beat a screened Turco. Ottawa finished the game 3-for-6 with the man advantage.
“That’s what we want to be right there,” said Hartsburg. “We have to continue to play like that, with that emotion.”
Eriksson tied the game with 5:34 remaining in regulation as he beat Gerber after a scramble at the front of the net. The native of Goteborg, Sweden has already established a career high with 18 goals in just 31 games this season.
Notes: The Senators were without RW Dean McAmmond (flu, indefinite) and RW Jesse Winchester (lower body, day-to-day), while D Christoph Schubert was a healthy scratch. … Lehtinen returned to the Stars’ lineup for the first time after missing the last 14 games with a groin injury. Lehtinen has only played four games this season. … Dallas was without LW Brenden Morrow (torn knee ligament, indefinite), D Sergei Zubov (hip, indefinite), D Nicklas Grossman, C Brian Sutherby and C Joel Lundqvist were all a healthy scratch.