OTTAWA – Johan Holmqvist is playing the best hockey of his career – and is looking good doing it.
Holmqvist made 25 saves for his second straight shutout and Martin St. Louis had the game winner as the Lightning blanked the Ottawa Senators 2-0 Saturday night.
With consecutive shutouts against Pittsburgh and Ottawa – two high-octane offences missing key components – Holmqvist hasn’t allowed a goal in more than 121 minutes, the Lightning’s longest shutout streak of the season.
“He’s played very well the past two games,” said Lightning coach John Tortorella. “It’s not just the saves he’s making, it’s how he’s making them. He looks solid.”
Vincent Lecavalier scored into an empty net with 12 seconds to play to secure the victory for Tampa Bay (19-24-5). The back-to-back shutouts are the Lightning’s first of the season.
Ray Emery made 24 saves in a losing cause for the Senators (30-13-4).
Holmqvist was busiest in the second period Saturday, turning aside all 12 Senators shots he faced. He had some help from an anemic Ottawa offence that managed just six shots in the third period despite having a pair of power-play opportunities.
“I thought we played really strong in the third period when we really needed it,” said Holmqvist, who had never recorded back-to-back shutouts. “We’ve been playing pretty good on the road and when you get a couple of wins behind you the confidence keeps going.
“It’s a very nice feeling and they were two big wins for us, which is the main thing, but it’s nice to get a shutout.”
Tortorella credited his players for bouncing back from a 3-0 home defeat to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
“It’s been a long week,” said Tortorella. “We’re going from a situation at home where I thought we really struggled against Colorado and then found our way. I think our team is beginning to play as a team and I think that’s the most important thing.
We were starting to do that before the Colorado game and then we got a backhand slap there. I’m very pleased with the effort.”
The Senators struggled without their two leading scorers. Daniel Alfredsson, who has 60 points this season, missed the game after suffering a hip flexor during a 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. Dany Heatley missed his fourth straight game with a separated shoulder that will keep him out until at least late-February.
“We’ve just got to get more chances and get more shots on net,” said Senators forward Shean Donovan. “We need to be a little more desperate. Anytime you don’t win it’s not a good thing but we’ve got three games on the road now so it will be good for the team.”
St. Louis had the only goal of the opening 40 minutes on a power play at 17:22 of the first period. After the Senators got caught with too many men on the ice, St. Louis made them pay as he was left alone at the side of the net and scored on a rebound. Brad Richards took a point shot that Vaclav Prospal tipped in front of Emery, but the Senators netminder made the save.
After the puck fell to his feet, St. Louis swatted it into the empty net.
“It was a pretty effort. It was a tight checking game, essentially a 1-0 game on a kind of a lucky bounce on the power play,” said Senators forward Jason Spezza.
“It was kind of what we wanted and I think what they wanted too, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
Notes: The crowd of 20,091 at Scotiabank Place was the 19th consecutive sellout for the Senators, and 23rd of the season.