WINNIPEG – Zack Smith figured he was hearing things when he was called upon to take a shift on the Ottawa Senators’power-play late in the third period Tuesday night.
But Sens’coach Paul MacLean had an inkling and it paid off.
Smith scored his second goal of the night at 13:45 of the third period with the man advantage as Ottawa defeated the Winnipeg Jets 6-4.
He cut in off the boards and wired a shot past Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec to give Ottawa a 5-4 lead.
Smith hasn’t seen much power-play time this season, and he wasn’t expecting any late in a tight Eastern Conference clash that featured four lead changes.
“I had to do a double-take there,”he said, grinning.“That was only my second or third shift (on the power play) this season. But I guess he wanted to change things up.
“It was nice to get a garbage goal on the first one (in the second period) and then get an opportunity on the power play and capitalize on it.”
The goals were his fifth and sixth of the year.
“I think I actually called (Smith’s name) three times before he got over the bench (on the power play),”said MacLean.“They did a good job. They played really hard, and when that happens you have to reward players.”
Overall, MacLean gave his team’s effort a bit of a mixed review.
“I was a little bit happy and unhappy with my team … but at the end of the night we found a way to win. We showed some resilience and we continued to play to the end of the game, and worked really hard.
“It was a bit of a race, I’ll agree with that. I thought that our penalty killers did a really good job, our goaltender Anderson was very good, and our penalty killers … were rewarded to get on a power play and they score a goal that ends up winning the game for us.”
Milan Michalek scored his 13th and 14th goals of the season for Ottawa, while Jason Spezza tied the score 4-4 in the third.
Nick Foligno added an empty-net goal for the Senators, who improved to 12-10-3. Craig Anderson made 39 saves for the win.
Evander Kane had two goals for the Jets, while Blake Wheeler and Alexander Burmistrov also scored. Pavelec stopped 28 saves as Winnipeg (9-11-4) opened a five-game homestand with a loss. The team will play 13 of its next 15 at the MTS Centre.
Afterward, Jets’coach Claude Noel was visibly perturbed with his club’s performance.
“To tell you I’m disappointed would be putting it mildly,”he said.“I didn’t think we played very intelligently. We didn’t play certainly with our minds. We had some energy but I thought it was a poor game in a lot of areas.
“I sensed this would be a really difficult game to win after the first period. I said to the coaches this is a tough game to win and it turned out to be. And as I watched it I had no comfort, no matter what, in that game. There was no period of time when I was comfortable.”
Michalek ripped a shot over Pavelec’s glove to give Ottawa a 1-0 in the first.
The Jets evened the score at 7:06 of the second period when Wheeler tapped in his second goal of the season. Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien rushed the length of the ice, sent a floater into the slot, and it bounced around to an open Wheeler all alone on the doorstep.
Burmistrov banked a shot off the inside of Anderson’s pad to give the Jets a 2-1 lead eight minutes later, but Smith jammed a puck past Pavelec to even the score 2-2 just 45 seconds later.
Michalek then tipped in a point shot from defenceman Chris Phillips with just 43 seconds left in the second to put Ottawa up 3-2 heading to the third.
Kane scored both of his goals early in the third period as the Jets jumped in front 4-3, but Spezza wired a wrist shot past Pavelec for his ninth of the season to make it 4-4 with just over 10 minutes left.
Next up for Winnipeg is a clash with the Phoenix Coyotes, who left Winnipeg for the desert in 1996.
Coyotes’ captain Shane Doan, a member of the original Jets, makes his return to Winnipeg. Edmonton Oilers goalieNikolai Khabibulin and Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne are the only other players left in the NHL from the club’s first incarnation.
The Senators travel to Dallas to face the Stars on Thursday.
Notes: Senators forward Nikita Filatov left the game in the first period after he was hit in the face by the skate of a falling Jets winger Eric Fehr. After the game, the club said he suffered a broken nose.