The Tampa Bay Lightning made sure the Ottawa Senators earned a rare two points.
Following a sluggish 30 minutes, St. Louis’ power-play goal at 2:56 of the third period sparked a fierce rally fueled by an aggressive forecheck, but Curtis McElhinney stymied any hope of a comeback with a 34-save effort in his Senators debut.
McElhinney was acquired by the Lightning in a trade on Feb. 24, but never played for the team after being claimed off waivers by Ottawa just four days later.
“It’s certainly a bit ironic that I came here and took two points away from a very good team,” McElhinney said. “It feels good to get the win. I think that’s the most enjoyable part.”
Tampa Bay has alternated a win and a loss in its last two games, following a 4-3 shootout win versus Chicago Wednesday night that snapped a four-game losing skid. It remains fifth in the Eastern Conference with 84 points, four behind the Washington Capitals, who increased their lead in the Southeast Division by two with a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Friday.
Jason Spezza scored a power-play goal and Billy Butler added an additional tally in the second period for the Senators, who have won four consecutive road games.
Ottawa outshot the Lightning 18-15 through the first two periods.
Spezza made it 1-0 on the power play after cleaning up a rebound out in front and backhanding it past Roloson at 10:35.
Butler doubled the lead to open the scoring in the second, walking in all alone on Roloson to beat him stick side just 53 seconds in.
“We played really well,” Senators head coach Cory Clouston said. “We got pucks in deep and we played exactly how we wanted.”
Tampa Bay held a two-man advantage when St. Louis tipped in a rebound 2:56 into the third period, ending the shutout bid. Ottawa had killed 33 consecutive penalties in 10 games before St. Louis broke through. With the puck sitting on the goal line, the Lightning wing batted it in past McElhinney for his 26th of the year.
Despite a valiant effort in the final period and numerous scoring chances, a number of tough bounces and solid play in net from McElhinney prevented the Lightning from tying the game.
Steven Stamkos hit a post, as did St. Louis earlier in the contest. Then, Stamkos nearly tied it when he put a nifty move on the Ottawa net minder and shifted from the forehand to the backhand before being tripped up in the crease.
The Lightning held a 20-4 shot advantage over the Senators in the final 20 minutes alone to make up for lack-luster start.
“To come out in the first period like that, it cost us the game,” Stamkos said. “It’s unacceptable. We need to find a way because we can’t afford to lose.”
A relentless effort highlighted desperation in the final two minutes. Simon Gagne got a chance in front, but couldn’t convert in the open net.
Tampa Bay caught a break at 14:46 in the third when Butler was sent off for a delay of game penalty, but could capitalize on just one of five power-play chances on the night.
“Right when I put the puck up I knew what happened,” Butler said. “The penalty kill unit did a great job. I owe them a dinner or something because they saved me for sure.”
Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier recorded a career-high 12 shots on goal, including nine in the third period alone.
“We didn’t play like we needed to the first half of the game,” Mike Lundin said. “We know where we’re at and we want to be at the top, but we’re not right now. Points are just as valuable no matter who you play.”
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