Islanders slip past Senators in shootout

The SportsXchange

OTTAWA -- The New York Islanders had five breakaway chances on Robin Lehner before finally slipping a shot through the big Ottawa Senators goalie.

The sixth gave them a 5-4 shootout victory in front of 15,589 fans at Canadian Tire Centre.

Frans Nielsen, who also scored at 3:14 of the third period to set the stage for overtime, notched the deciding goal on a nice move before tucking the puck in between Lehner's skates.

"I think he knows me pretty well, so I just tried to change it up and tried to make him bite on my backhand, then go back on my forehand," said Nielsen. "It worked out."

Before that, Lehner made two breakaway stops in regulation, another in overtime, and two more in the shootout.

In the 65 minutes before the tie-breaking process, the 22-year old Swede made a total of 53 saves to set a new Senators regular season game franchise record.

"I tried my best," said Lehner. "I have a few things to work on, too. Unfortunately we couldn t get a win, but I think we have a really good group, really good players, and we're going to find a way to turn it around. It's small steps right now."

To that end, Senators coach Paul MacLean saw some positive signs that he believes can help his team put the brakes on a season-high losing streak that has reached four games.

"When things aren t going your way, and things are going real bad, sometimes it continues to feel like you're getting pummeled and pummeled," said MacLean. "But I thought tonight we had some guys dig in. We had the game at 4-2 and it was going all kinds of places, it was a little bit crazy. But at the end of the day we found a way to get something out of the game and guys started to dig in.

"Any time you're in a tug of war, you can't start pulling back. You have to dig in and stop the other side from pulling, and I think we had some guys start to dig in tonight."

Evgeni Nabokov faced just 31 Senators shots and looked shaky on a couple of goals, but he also preserved the win with a great leg stop off Bobby Ryan on the Senators final shootout chance.

John Tavares, Matt Martin, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Nielsen had the Islanders goals. Kyle Okposo added a pair of assists.

Erik Condra, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan and Clarke MacArthur scored for the Senators, while Erik Karlsson chipped in with two assists.

Nielsen scored his eighth goal of the season at 3:14 of the third period as the Islanders recovered from their second two-goal deficit of the night, making the score 4-4. Nielsen had an open sign to fire at after being set up by defenseman Thomas Hickey.

"Recently we ve been on the other side of it and it's frustrating when those things happen," said Hickey, referring to the fact the Islanders had lost their two previous shootouts this season. "We stuck with our game plan and got rewarded.

"We knew he was a good goalie," he added in reference to Lehner. "He's a big guy. He covers a lot of the net. I don't think early on in the we really got enough traffic towards him, to be honest with you. A goalie that big, even if he can t really see it, he takes up so much of the net it s kind of really tough to find a hole."

The teams scored five goals in a busy second period that first saw the Islanders net a pair to tie the score, then the Senators notch two to build themselves a cushion and finally the visitors add another to set up the stage for an interesting final 20 minutes.

Lehner didn't see a puck until the 5:30 mark of the first period, but near the midway mark he did have to make a breakaway stop on Michael Grabner with the Islanders shorthanded that prevented the Senators from giving up the game's first goal for the 10th time this season.

Ottawa took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission with late period goals 62 seconds apart by Condra, off an Islander defensive zone giveaway, and Zibanejad, who slapped a shot that went through Nabokov's catching mitt.

NOTES: Two Islanders who spent five years in the Senators organization were playing their first game in Ottawa as visitors: D Matt Carkner and C Peter Regin. "It is special," Carkner said before the opening faceoff. "It's my hometown. I used to play here. There are a lot of familiar faces on the other side. I've been waiting for this for a year and a half now. I'm excited for the game." ... The Senators feasted on the Islanders over the years. They entered the night with a 47-16-11-4 record in the all-time series between the two teams, including a 24-7-5-2 markat home. ... Islanders C John Tavares extended the NHL s longest consecutive point scoring streak to 11 games. During the run, Tavares has five goals and nine assists. ... Senators LW Erik Condra's goal was his first of the season and just his second in his last 42 regular season games.
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