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Christmas comes early for Sens as Stutzle snaps losing streak

OTTAWA –

Christmas came a couple days early for the Ottawa Senators, thanks to Tim Stutzle’s overtime winner on Saturday in a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Losers of six straight, the Senators (12-17-0) would have hated going into the three-day holiday break facing yet another loss, but thanks to Stutzle — who scored his first in seven games — players will celebrate feeling a little better about things.

“Just go five hole,” said Stutzle when asked what he was thinking after he scored. “Every time I used to do that I scored. I don’t know why I kept not doing it, so I’ll just go back to what I was doing.”

There was no denying the sense of relief from his teammates. Following a loss to Colorado earlier this week captain Brady Tkachuk said it was the worst he’s ever felt.

The Senators didn’t make it easy on themselves. Ottawa led 4-2 going into the third and allowed Pittsburgh (15-13-4) to tie the game.

The Penguins made it a one-goal game just 1:51 into the third period when Drew O’Connor deflected a Marcus Pettersson point shot, and Kris Letang tied the game with 2:26 remaining.

“It was a big point, don’t get me wrong,” said Pettersson. “It was a big point, but we didn’t give ourselves a chance to get two. They came out flying. We knew they were going to be desperate, too.

“They had lost a few games here and (had) a coaching change, so we knew they were going to be desperate.”

Tkachuk admitted he felt like a weight had been lifted after Stutzle scored.

“It was a huge relief and just an awesome feeling,” said Tkachuk after the game. “(Anton) Forsberg made some huge saves to keep us in it so it’s a huge relief and to get Jacques his first win, for part two with us, and Alfie’s (Daniel Alfredsson) first official coaching win so it’s a good feeling.”

Jacques Martin took over behind the bench earlier in the week and lost his first two games, but in a strange twist of fate picked up his first win against not only his former team, but the team he faced the first time he stood behind the Senators’ bench.

On Jan. 24, 1996, the Penguins beat the Senators 4-3 so it only seemed fitting that this time he came out with the victory.

“Somebody told me today my first game of coaching was against Pittsburgh and we didn’t win, but I remember it clearly though,” said Martin. “I think we’re progressing and it was nice to get the reward.”

Jakob Chychrun, Josh Norris, Brady Tkachuk and Erik Brannstrom also scored for Ottawa. Forsberg, who made 30 saves, was at his best in the third when the Penguins outshot the Senators 23-4.

Lars Eller and Rickard Rakell also scored for the Penguins (15-13-4). Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 21 shots.

“I thought we raised our level of urgency and we raised our level of execution (in the third),” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. “But like I said, the first 40 minutes were all special teams, so how many even-strength shifts in a row were there before there was another power play or a penalty kill on either side?

“There was no flow in the game in the first 40. I thought we competed hard in the third.”

The Senators got the start they were looking for jumping out to a 2-1 lead in the first period.

Chychrun opened the scoring sliding on one knee to wire home a Claude Giroux rebound at 11:07. The Penguins tied the game with a power-play goal at 14:31 when Eller beat Forsberg short side, but Ottawa regained the lead 30 seconds later when Norris bat in a shot past Nedeljkovic.

Leading 2-1 Ottawa was able to extend its lead early in the second when Giroux made a great pass through traffic to a streaking Tkachuk, who tipped home his 15th of the season.

Pittsburgh made it a one-goal game when Rakell tipped home a Sidney Crosby pass, but Ottawa padded its lead on Brannstrom’s second of the season at 7:30. The goal required a lengthy review, but stood.

“Our bench seemed to think it was offside,” said Chychrun. “We weren’t really expecting to get the call so it was nice. So we’ll take it and hopefully it’s a sign things are turning for us.”

Martin liked his team’s effort and was happy to see the players get rewarded.

“I thought for two periods we were really, really good,” said Martin. “I thought we played more our style of hockey. I think we want to be like a pressure team. We got a great performance out of our first line tonight and overall, I think we did a much better job.

“Tonight, third period we weren’t as good, but sometimes you’ve got to find ways to win games and you’ll learn from those situations.”

NOTES

Vladimir Tarasenko played in his 700th NHL game. The Senators remain without Thomas Chabot (leg), Zack MacEwen (hamstring), Mathieu Joseph (lower body) and Rourke Chartier (upper body) … Bryan Rust missed his sixth straight game with an upper-body injury, while Matt Nieto missed his 10th game in a row with a lower-body injury for the Penguins.

UP NEXT

Senators: Travel to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Penguins: Head to Long Island to take on the Islanders on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2023.

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