GARRIOCH: Ottawa Senators look strong in comeback with win over Calgary Flames

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SENATORS 4, FLAMES 1

The absence made the hearts of the Ottawa Senators grow.

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Dressing for only the second time in nearly two weeks due to COVID-19 postponements, the Senators skated off the ice at the Saddledome on Thursday night with a solid 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

Goaltender Matt Murray was solid with 28 saves to earn his first win of the season while the line of Nick Paul, Connor Brown and Alex Formenton had two runs to help lead the way for the Senators.

Drake Batherson also scored as Ottawa snapped a three-game losing streak and earned its first win since Dec. 14. It also ended Murray’s eight-game winless skid that dated back to April 22, 2021 against the Vancouver Canucks. .

“Matt Murray was really good, he saw the puck all night and he looked really confident,” coach DJ Smith said. “But a lot of guys had good games. I thought we shot a lot more pucks and had a lot of energy.

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“We had legs tonight for sure. We were on pucks, we were shooting, we didn’t take a lot of penalties and let their best guys in the game. And when we did, Murray was there to save him.

It was only the club’s second game since December 18. Last we saw the Senators, they were shorthanded with five players under COVID-19 protocol and lost 6-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 on the road.

With 10 of the club’s last 11 games postponed, no one knew what to expect from the Senators. Smith and his team have worked hard to keep the players sharp, but nothing can match the pace of an actual game.

The Senators had 11 days off before the puck was finally dropped.

With the Senators leading 3-0, Matt Tkachuk redirected a Murray shot to put the Flames on the board after just 47 seconds in the third. Brown then responded at 4:52 by beating Calgary goaltender Jacob Markstrom over five holes to restore Ottawa to a three-goal lead.

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“It was a really good effort from our team. We’ve been out for so long and worked hard in training,” said Brown, who scored his first goal in 10 games. “It showed tonight. I’m proud of our group and let’s get it started.

Winless this season at 0-6-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .883 save percentage, Murray ranked 62nd in the NHL among 65 goaltenders who played in seven games. This year.

“It was probably one of the best games we’ve played all year,” Murray said. “I felt good today, but to be honest I felt good all season. It was really good to have the result tonight.

“I fought and I didn’t get any results. Tonight feels good for sure.

For 40 minutes, Murray had been solid. He had some help from his friends because the Senators scored at the right time and outshot the Flames 26-16 but made the necessary saves.

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Batherson, named the club’s representative for the NHL All-Star Weekend in Vegas next month, scored his 10th of the season with just 57 seconds left in the second to give the club a 3-0 lead heading into the third.

He didn’t have much to work with but knocked the puck off Markstrom’s mask before it landed in the net and it was Batherson’s fifth career goal against Calgary.

“I think (Markstrom’s) helmet is gone but I’ll take it for sure,” Batherson told the TSN show after the second.

Called up from the club’s AHL branch in Belleville, winger Scott Sabourin faced Calgary’s Milan Lucic at 1:47 of the second. Ottawa led by two goals, but Sabourin’s timing could have been better.

Sabourin dislocated his right ring finger during the fight with Lucic, one of the toughest clients in the league, and did not return.

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The Senators had no complaints about their departure. They’ve talked a lot about having to get rid of the rust after such a long spell without a game, but their first half couldn’t have gone better.

Making his first start since the loss to the Leafs, Murray made some good saves early and played with confidence. He made 10 saves in the first and was helped by Paul scoring twice to give the club a 2-0 lead.

Paul’s sixth of the season at 16:37 came on a perfect pass from Connor Brown that Markstrom didn’t stand a chance on. On an odd run, Paul took the pass and made a shrewd move to beat Markstrom’s glove side.

Just 1:43 into the game, Paul fired a shot from the left circle after a turnover in the Calgary zone that Markstrom never saw and beat him blocker to open the scoring.

It was the club’s first goal since the third period against the Flyers last month.

“As a group, we really stuck together. We just knew the first two shifts, we had to play as hard as we could and go from there,” said Paul, who moved into the middle with Tim Stuetzle in protocol. “It was a pretty good result.

“I thought it was a good effort across the board.”

The Senators will face the Oilers on Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada to conclude this two-game road trip.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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