Panthers claw way back against Sens, despite Forsberg’s dazzling night

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The largest crowd of the season certainly got its money’s worth Saturday night.

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There was never a dull moment right up to the final buzzer.

The Ottawa Senators pulled out to a three-goal lead at the Canadian Tire Center, allowed the Florida Panthers to claw their way back in and ended up having to work overtime in front of a great crowd of 17, 201 on Country Night.

Aleksander Barkov scored the winner in the shootout to give the Panthers a 4-3 victory over the Senators, but this effort wasn’t totally pointless.

Goaltender Anton Forsberg had a spectacular night as he made 46 saves to get the Senators to the shootout. Sergei Bobrovksy wasn’t nearly as busy with 19 stops, but he made a huge one on Josh Norris in OT.

Dylan Gambrell, Artem Zub and Alex Formenton did the scoring in regulation for Ottawa.

“That was our best game of the year,” said coach DJ Smith. “That’s without a doubt the most offensive team in the league. We stayed with it long enough, we checked and Forsberg, let’s make no mistake how good he was.

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“Without the fans tonight, you’re probably in trouble. You could see for the first time since COVID-19, the fans were pushing our guys to find another gear and how hard we played. It’s unfortunate we didn’t win because we had so many chances overtime but we know where we’ve got to get to.”

Barkov completed the come back when he tied it up with 2:16 left in the third on their 42nd shot with the Senators clinging to a 3-2 lead.

The Senators were buoyed by the return of winger Drake Batherson from a high ankle sprain he suffered Jan. 25 against the Sabers. He picked up an assist and reached a new career-high in points with 35 this season.

The last time the Senators faced the Panthers, the club dropped a 3-0 decision in Florida on March 3 on the road. Since then, Florida has gotten evens strong with the addition of Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot and Robert Hagg at the deadline.

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The decision to stick with Forsberg made the most sense and through 40 minutes the club had been outshot 31-15 and were up 3-2.

By the end of the game, it was the seventh time this season that Forsberg has faced more than 40 shots.

Fifteen of the club’s 23 wins this season have come with him in the net and he was solid in a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets Thursday. Signed to an extension Monday, he’s continued to provide reliable goaltending.

One of Forsberg’s stops of the night came with 4:30 left in the game. He made a huge stop on Brandon Montour in alone. The officials went upstairs to make sure the puck hadn’t crossed the line and Nick Holden helped keep Forsberg’s pad out of the net.

The video review on that one didn’t take nearly as long as the first one and it wasn’t without controversy.

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Smith, the Senators’ bench and the fans were livid after Patric Hornqvist was rewarded a goal with 10:03 left in the second. Suddenly, Ottawa was clinging to a 3-2 lead and there didn’t appear to be any evidence the puck crossed the line.

The review in the NHL’s situation room took seven minutes after the puck bounced off Forsberg’s back and he reached back to grab it.

The league sent a picture of the puck in Forsberg’s glove in the net.

So, was it a goal?

“I skated over to the ref and asked if I could see the picture they judged it on because I had a hard time believing they could see the whole puck crossing the line there,” Forsberg said. “It’s what it’s. I’d love to see it though.

“I didn’t even know it was in my glove. I had no idea where it was.”

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Former Senators’ winger Anthony Duclair exacted a little revenge. On the power play, he fired an absolute blast by Forsberg from the right circle that was out of the net as fast as it went in.

That was Duclair’s 26th of the season on the 26th shot Forsberg faced and it came at 8:55 to get Florida on the board.

Gambrell’s second of the season gave the club a 3-0 lead at 6:47 of the second with the Panthers pressing. He was able to slide the puck by Bobrovsky and that was Gambrell’s first in 32 games.

Both of his goals this season have come against the Panthers.

Zub scored his fifth of the season to give the club a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. He picked up a rebound in front, fired it by Bobrovsky and the crowd went wild chanting Zub’s name at 15:26.

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The club didn’t register a shot until 7:20 of the game, but a breakaway chance for Formenton paid off in a big way. Initially, the shot by the speedy winger hit the crossbar but a fortunate bounce off Bobrovsky gave Ottawa the lead.

“It was a fun game,” said Norris. “They play a really good style and have a really good team. We had the lead there for a while and we played the right way. Unfortunately, we couldn’t capitalize but we got a point. That’s the best team in the league in my opinion.”

The Senators will open a two-game road trip Tuesday against the Nashville Predators.

[email protected]

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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