Kelly’s hat trick lifts Sens over Rangers

 

His first career three-goal game ends Ottawa’s goalless drought

 
 
 

Senators 3, Rangers 1

NEW YORK -- Maybe, just maybe, history can repeat itself for the Ottawa Senators.

A year ago, a victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden turned around their season. And after Sunday’s 3-1 win over New York — led by Chris Kelly’s first career NHL hat trick — the Senators can’t help but wonder if it can happen again.

“That was in the back of our minds,” said Kelly. “Now, it’s in the front of our minds.”

First, a refresher about what occured last January. At the time, the Senators were mired in a six-game losing streak, their season on the ropes. One goaltender, Brian Elliott, had the flu. The other, Pascal Leclaire, was out with a concussion after taking a shot in the face during the morning skate.

In came emergency netminder Mike Brodeur from Binghamton, who promptly shut out the Rangers 2-0 in his NHL debut. Brodeur and the Senators then defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2, kick-starting a franchise record 11-game winning streak.

This time around, the Senators arrived in New York carrying heavy baggage, having lost three straight, five of their previous six games and with a record of 2-7-1 in their previous 10.

When they didn’t score in the opening 10 minutes Sunday, they established a franchise record for longest scoring drought. On top of all that, the Senators once again reached down to Binghamton for relief, recalling Bobby Butler, who led the AHL with 15 goals.

Just like last January, Sunday’s game was deadlocked in the third period before the Senators came through. Kelly scored his second goal of the game with only 2:24 left to give the Senators a 2-1 lead. Kelly then iced the game with an empty net at 19:59.

Kelly’s first goal of the game, a shorthanded effort, ended the team’s goalless drought at 202:57.

“Probably the game-winner,” said Kelly, when asked about which goal was the most important. “I didn’t even know it went in until (Jarkko) Ruutu started celebrating.”

Senators coach Cory Clouston praised his entire team for a solid effort.

“I thought the guys persevered. We played hard. Obviously, New York is playing well right now. It’s a really good win.”

Clouston also singled out goalie Pascal Leclaire, who stopped 25 of 26 shots to register his second win of the season

“I felt good out there, it was a fun afternoon,” said Leclaire. “I thought we played pretty well last night, too (a 1-0 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres) and today we came out hard again today. When we keep things simple, we’re pretty good.”

The game was deadlocked 1-1 going into the third period after Kelly and Brandon Prust exchanged shorthanded goals in the second period.

Kelly’s goal, at the 4:27 mark of the second period, ended the Senators franchise-record scoreless drought The old mark of 187:42 had been set between Nov. 17-26, 1996.

Only seconds after Ruutu wasn’t penalized for tripping Marian Gaborik — a hit that would have given the Rangers a long 5-on-3 manpower advantage — Kelly chipped the puck past Derek Stepan at the Senators blueline and outraced him to the loose puck in the neutral zone.

Kelly then beat Lundqvist with a high shot to the stick side. There was a collective sigh of relief on the Ottawa bench following the goal.

The lead lasted only six minutes, as the Rangers also took advantage of an odd-man rush to tie the game.

Once again, Sergei Gonchar was caught pinching deep in the Rangers zone as the Rangers chipped the puck out to set up a 2-on-1 break. Prust used Marc Staal as a decoy before ripping a shot over Leclaire’s trapper.

While Leclaire wasn’t tested early, he was sharp in the final few minutes of the second to keep the game tied.

The early story line was all about the Senators scoring drought and the recall of Butler, who was in the starting lineup on a line with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.

His call-up from Binghamton was long overdue, considering the Senators’ woeful offensive output and the fact that Butler leads the American Hockey League with 15 goals and was the AHL rookie of the month in November.

“I’m just going to do what I do and we’ll see what happens,” said Butler, claiming that he wasn’t overly nervous because he was inserted into two games last season after signing as a free agent.

Just the same, it was quite the adrenalin rush. With Sunday’s game a matinee, Butler had no time to even skate with his new linemates before playing.

Clouston says it only made sense to put a goal scorer with players who could give him an opportunity to score. The Senators coach also didn’t want to mess too much with his line combinations. Butler took Peter Regin’s spot on the top line; Regin was a healthy scratch.

The Senators came out with plenty of energy, dominating the opening minutes — Rangers coach John Tortorella called a time out at the 4:10 mark to settle down his team — but the Senators couldn’t score, establishing their scoreless futility mark by not scoring in the opening 10 minutes.

The Senators held a 10-5 edge in shots in the first period. Kelly came closest to breaking the goalless drought, ringing a shot off the crossbar with 11 seconds left in the first period.

The Senators came into game having scored only 58 goals in 27 games, an average of 2.15 per night. The only team scoring at a weaker pace is the New York Islanders, who have netted 53 goals in 25 games. The Islanders have lost 17 of their past 18 games.

 
 
 
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