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Zack Smith has winner as Ottawa Senators edge Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2

Smith has winner as Senators top Blue Jackets

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators have a plan for every game: play a full 60 minutes.

They stuck to that on Saturday night and were rewarded with a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in what many of the Senators considered a test.

“I think it was a hard-fought game,” said Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson. “I think they played a really good game and they made it really tough for us, but we stuck with it for the 60 minutes and we battled hard.”

This was a full team effort as Guy Boucher rolled all four lines with every forward playing more than ten minutes each.

“Last ten, 15 minutes of the game our players have so much juice now,” said Boucher. “It’s good to see. Guys are playing different roles and can focus on the roles that they’re asked to play. It’s really good to manage.”

The additions of Alex Burrows and Viktor Stalberg, just before the trade deadline, and Tommy Wingels last month have made an immediate impact in the Senators lineup.

Stalberg scored his first goal since joining Ottawa (35-22-6), Erik Karlsson scored his 11th of the season and Zack Smith scored short handed as Craig Anderson made 25 saves. Stalberg was traded to Ottawa by the Carolina Hurricanes on for a 2017 third-round draft choice on Tuesday.

Brandon Saad and Sam Gagner scored for the Blue Jackets (40-17-6). Joonas Korpisalo, playing just his eighth game, made 24 saves. This was the first regulation loss for Columbus in five games (3-1-1).

“We created some opportunities,” said Columbus head coach John Tortorella. “Three posts, had some looks, had some missed chances, (Anderson) made some good saves. The game could have gone either way, but we ended up on the wrong end of it. They score three, we have two.”

Trailing 2-1 late in the third Columbus had a power play and pulled Korpisalo to try and score the equalizer, but the Senators were able to take advantage as Smith scored his league-leading fourth shorthanded goal into the empty net to make it 3-1.

Tortorella admitted it was an aggressive play to pull the goalie, but he felt it was the right choice at the time.

“Certainly I didn’t expect them to score off a faceoff on a bouncing puck. You live with that.”

Gagner scored a power-play goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation to cut Ottawa’s lead to 3-2.

“It’s a frustrating loss, but we’ve got another one coming up here soon and we need to get back at it,” said Gagner.

A hard fought second period saw the Senators come out with a 2-1 lead as Mark Stone made an outstanding no-look pass to Karlsson who snapped a shot past Korpisalo. Boucher had nothing but praise for both his players saying how Stone is still dealing with soreness from a neck injury as well as a leg issue, while Karlsson continues to get better every game.

“Guys who have that kind of vision, that kind of stick handling and can get away from traffic and read the space like they do, it’s pretty impressive.”

Anderson had a little luck on his side as both Zach Werenski and Oliver Bjorstrand rang shots off the post. Trailing 1-0, Ottawa tied the game midway through the first as Stalberg jumped on a loose puck in the crease.

Earlier in the week Burrows had made his presence felt scoring twice in his first game with the Senators and as such Stalberg was happy to be able to contribute as well.

“You want to make sure you show everybody they did the right thing acquiring you,” said Stalberg. “So far it’s worked out pretty well for me and Burrows.”

Columbus opened the scoring just two minutes into the game as Werenski made a great pass to Saad who wired a shot off the post to beat Anderson.

This was the third and final meeting of the regular season between the two teams with the Senators winning the series 2-0-1.

Columbus is back in action Sunday as they take on the New Jersey Devils, while the Senators host the Boston Bruins Monday.

Notes: Ottawa D Jyrki Jokipakka, D Fredrik Claesson and C Christopher DiDomenico were healthy scratches. Columbus D Scott Harrington, D Markus Nutivaara and C TJ Tynan were a healthy scratch.

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press

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