The Senators moved to within striking distance of a wildcard playoff spot Thursday night and it’s bound to be a wild ride right to the end.
A 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting in front of 19,787 at the Canadian Tire Centre gave the club 58 points and while the Senators are technically on the outside looking in for the final spot they’re in the race with a week before the Olympic break.
Led by a two-point effort from Bobby Ryan along with goals from Kyle Turris, Zack Smith, Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot along with a stellar 35-save effort from Craig Anderson, the Senators looked like a team poised for a playoff spot.
Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Victor Hedman were able to beat Anderson. While former Senators’ goalie Ben Bishop started, he didn’t finish after less than two minutes into the game with what appeared to be a head injury and backup Anders Lindback took over.
“We’ve just got to keep picking up points and everybody else is going to keep picking up points,” said captain Jason Spezza. “As you get down to that last 10-to-15 games you want to put yourself in a position to be watching the standings and making a run at it.
“We knew we had six games in nine days going into the break. It’s 12 points. We want to try to take a good chunk of those and go into the break feeling good about our team.”
There will be plenty of racetrack left after the Olympic break, but the Senators finished January with 7-2-3 and 17 of a possible 24 points and it would appear they can’t afford to let up.
“It’s incredible. You win a couple and you are looking at the No. 8. You lose a couple and you are looking at the No. 12 seed,” said Ryan, who scored his 20th of the season.
“If we stick to our structure and win our games it will play itself out. The scoreboard hasn’t been kind to us either. Other teams are finding a way to win. It’s going to be a battle all the way through.”
Since nothing comes easy for the Senators, they couldn’t just close it out. Instead, they allowed Johnson to score shorthanded and Hedman to pull the Bolts to within two goals late.