Senators showing they're NHL's comeback kings
No deficit too large to faze Ottawa, which leads league in third-period rallies for wins
|With their uphill 6-4 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, the Senators recorded their sixth third-period rally for a win this season, tops among all NHL teams (Francois Laplante/Freestyle/Getty Images).
The latest evidence of such moxie came Sunday night, when the Senators roared back from a 4-2 deficit with a four-goal third-period outburst that sank the Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 before another sellout throng of better than 20,000 at Scotiabank Place. It was the sixth time this season that Ottawa rallied to win after trailing through 40 minutes — more than any other team in the National Hockey League.
"We're a resilient bunch," goaltender Craig Anderson said after the Senators' latest heart-stopper of a comeback. "We persevere and there's a no-quit attitude in here. We find ways. We've got great skill, great talent and a great work (ethic) here, and great leadership. We have all the right qualities."
Added defenceman Erik Karlsson: "We always stick to it. We always try to find a way to win games. We've got a strong morale in here and we never give up on games. Even if we're down a couple of goals, we always try to do good for ourselves and try to stay in games. If you stick to it long enough, it's going to work somehow."
Perhaps what made Sunday's triumph even more notable was the quality of the opponent. The Flyers are considered one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams, but the Senators managed to snare three of a possible points from them in a weekend home-and-home series. Thanks to its current 8-1-2 stretch, Ottawa (22-15-6) has risen to fifth spot in the East, just two points back of Philadelphia, which holds three games in hand.
The third-period comebacks have played no small role in the emergence of the Senators as a bona fide playoff contender — a position few outside the organization would have considered even a remote possibility at the season's outset. But this team, which leads the NHL in third-period goals, continues to adhere to a philosophy that head coach Paul MacLean has preached almost from the first day he walked in the door.
"It's an attitude that we've had since the first day of training camp, to be able to play for 60 or 65 minutes or whatever it takes," MacLean said of a team which has seen six of its previous nine games decided in overtime or via shootout (Ottawa won four of them). "No matter what happens, what kind of adversity of what kind of success we have, we want to be known as a team that's known to play the full game, the full 60 minutes.
The more the Senators show they can rally, the more they feel like they won't be denied.
"We believe in ourselves," said veteran blueliner Filip Kuba, who notched the game-winner Sunday with just 71 seconds left on the clock. "We have a group of guys in here who believe in each other, and can go into the third down by two goals and we know we can do it, we can come back."
Anderson, for one, admits he's never seen anything quite like it, calling this group "a special team" with the ability "to do it night in and night out."
"You've just got to battle and keep that mentality that we always have a chance," he said. "We know if we put (on) our hard hats and, the little things we've been talking about, do those correctly and control what we can control, we'll find ways to make big plays.
"We've got game breakers in here. We've got Karl, we've got Spez (Jason Spezza), we've got Alfie (Daniel Alfredsson) ... we've got plenty of game breakers here who can go out and make the big play to get us back into games. They've been doing it all year and nothing's changed."
It's a mindset that figures to further tested over the next three weeks, when the Senators play nine of their next 10 games away from Scotiabank Place. It all starts Tuesday at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center against the Penguins (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
"We're going to continue to do what we've done all season long — take it one day at a time," said MacLean. "And we're not going to look at the sixth or seventh game before we have a chance to play the first one ... We've had success on the road and we just want to make sure we take it one day at a time and just get ready for each opponent as they come up."