The Ottawa Senators were forced to work overtime again Friday night.
It wasn’t all for naught.
Goaltender Filip Gustavsson had a standout effort as Tim Stuetzle scored the winner in the skills contest to give the Senators a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Captain Brady Tkachuk scored in regulation as the Senators tried to close out this three-game road trip on a winning note.
Making his second straight start with the Senators for the first time since Dec. 1, Gustavsson made key stops at key times. All the club wants is for Gustavsson to give them a chance to win and he’s done that in both games this week.
Gustavsson made two huge stops in OT and halted all three shooters to help the club secure the win.
“I felt more comfortable today. The first period of the last game felt more uncomfortable and very stiff for me,” said Gustavsson. “The rest of that game felt way better and this game was very relaxing. I felt like I could just play my game.”
The Senators had a late power play to try to avoid overtime but couldn’t cash in as Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins closed the door.
The status of Stuetzle wasn’t determined until just before the game. He missed Thursday’s skate after taking a hit in Vancouver and was sent for further examination on his leg before being given clearance to play.
Stuetzle skated Friday morning and was then given the green light by the training staff. The club was already without center Colin White, who was placed in COVID-19 protocol last weekend.
Stuetzle wanted to play and he decided to play with the soreness. He came into this one with 14 points in his last 10 games. He did n’t look injured at all, created scoring chances and was using his speed from him.
“As the game went on, I thought we got a little hungrier,” said Smith. “It was a pretty even game both ways. we just found a way to win.
Tkachuk tied it up 1-1 at 7:06 of the third with his 29th of the season. It came on the completion of a perfect tic-tac-toe passing play and Tkachuk fired it by Elvis Merzlikins on the glove side to get the club on the board.
It was Tkachuk’s first career goal against the Jackets and he’s now scored a goal against every NHL team.
That’s exactly what the Senators needed because Gustavsson had done a solid job keeping them in the game.
The club just wanted to see some consistency from Gustavsson in this one. He wasn’t great in the first period in Vancouver, but he battled hard and helped the Senators skate away with the two points.
This was going to be another tough test for Gustavsson and the Senators wanted to see how he reacted. He came into this game 4-11-1 this season with a .888 save-percentage and a 3.71 goals-against average.
The Senators have struggled mightily with the Jackets. Ottawa came into this game with a 2-7-0 record in its last nine games against Columbus. Given the history between these two teams you knew it was would be tight-checking.
Of course, it lived up to its billing. The Senators and Jackets don’t exactly bring out the best in each other. Scoring chances were initially hard to get, but the play did open up in the second period.
Down by a goal after 40 minutes, the Senators had good reason to feel they were playing a good road game but a controversial decision by the league to call back a goal meant they remained behind 1-0.
The Senators thought Parker Kelly had tied it up with his seventh of the season with 9:58 left in the second. But Columbus challenged for offside because Tkachuk was jumping into the bench when Dylan Gambrell skated into the zone.
Though Tkachuk was well out of the play, the situation room ruled that the play was indeed offside. According to the decision, Tkachuk didn’t leave the zone before he jumped into the bench.
That’s fine but he wasn’t in the play in any way. If he’s considered to be in the play then the Senators should have been assessed a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. This decision was mystifying in a lot of ways.
“We’re not sure, we thought it was a goal and I think we still do,” Smith said. “We don’t know for sure and it’s a hard call by the ref. We understand that.”
Trailing 1-0 after the first, it was tough for both teams to create scoring chances, with the shots 6-4 in favor of the Jackets. There just wasn’t a whole lot of room out there as the Senators and Columbus battled it out.
With Austin Watson in the box for a questionable interference, the Jackets pulled out to a 1-0 lead on the strength of Jack Roslovic’s 20th of the season. He took a pass and fired it into a wide open net by Gustavsson glove side at 11:20.
The Senators will face the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at home.