OTTAWA – It was an afternoon of firsts for the Ottawa Senators.
Vladislav Namestnikov scored his first two goals with his new team, helping the Senators to their first win of the season, and giving D.J. Smith his first win as an NHL head coach.
Namestnikov put away the winner 16:57 into the third and added an empty-netter with just seconds remaining as the Senators topped the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Saturday.
“It’s a long time you spend to get to this league and it’s hard, certainly, to win. We earned it tonight,” said Smith.
It looked like Tampa Bay took a 3-2 lead just past the mid-way point of the third, but after a Brady Tkachuk penalty at 11:50 made it 4-on-4, a Nikita Kucherov goal was called back.
“It was back and forth in the third. It didn’t look good. We got a call overturned and we found a way to win,” said Smith. “It’s taken 16 years to get here as a coach. You didn’t foresee losing the first three as a coach but it is what it is and we got a win here tonight.”
Colin White and Jean-Gabriel Pageau also scored as the Senators (1-3-0) stopped their franchise-worst start to a season.
Ottawa got 19 saves from Craig Anderson, who returned to the crease after watching his team let in six goals in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
Ondrej Palat and Luke Witkowski replied for Tampa Bay (2-2-1), while Curtis McElhinney stopped 30 shots in net.
Namestnikov was drafted by the Lightning in 2011 and had notched only an assist in his Senators debut on Thursday after he was traded from the New York Rangers to Ottawa on Monday.
“It feels great,” said Namestnikov of the win. “Start was 0-3 but it was definitely important to get this win and (have) positive vibes and now we move forward.”
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said he was disappointed in his team Saturday.
The line of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov — who combined for five goals and 11 points in the Lightning’s game against Toronto — were held scoreless by Ottawa.
“We were driving the play against Toronto and today Ottawa was driving the play against us,” he said. “It’s not up to our standard that’s for sure.”
Mark Borowiecki nearly broke it open early for the Senators, hitting the crossbar less than a minute into the game.
It was a sign of things to come in the opening frame as Ottawa out-shot the Lightning 12-5.
But the Senators — who came into the game last in the league on the power play — couldn’t capitalize on any of their opportunities, including going 0 for 2 with the man advantage.
Tampa Bay served two avoidable penalties early in the second, as the Lightning got dinged for having too many men on the ice and then Erik Cernak was booked for playing the puck with his hands.
The Senators couldn’t convert on the 5-on-3 or with the man advantage, continuing their scoreless streak on the power play.
But after Tkachuk poked a bouncing puck across to Bobby Ryan as he fell to the ice, Ryan found a wide-open White who ripped a wrist shot over McElhinney’s glove. White recorded his first goal of the season at 13:44 of the second.
The Ottawa faithful barely had enough time to sit down after White’s goal when Palat notched his third of the season for the Lightning just 33 seconds later to tie the game at 1-1.
With 27 seconds left in the second period, Pageau scored his first goal of the season after chipping in a bouncing puck under the glove of Anderson. Pageau also assisted on Namestnikov’s empty-netter.
Defenceman Nikita Zaitsev was key on the defensive side, neutralizing Kucherov and made an important stop early in the third to preserve the Senators’ one-goal lead.
But Witkowski’s wrist shot from the left circle tied the game at 2-2. His first goal of the season came at 8:56 in the third.
Still, Smith said his team performed its best defensively all year and they — and he — were rewarded with their first win of the young season.
“I thought (this) was our best effort defensively and the way we played away from the puck,” said Smith. “We played hard tonight and if we play like that we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Notes: Senators forward Artem Anisimov did not return for the third period with a lower body injury… Ottawa concludes a four-game homestand Monday against the Minnesota Wild. Tampa Bay is in action next against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
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