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Win over Blue Jackets gives Senators five-game winning streak

They last won five consecutive games in March 2017, before they went to the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference playoff final.

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Senators 5, Blue Jackets 2

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The Ottawa Senators have won five straight and they’re very much alive.

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The Senators started off a meaningful March schedule by extending their season-best winning streak to five games, putting the Columbus Blue Jackets in their place with a 5-2 victory in front of 18,073 at the Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday night.

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The offence was led by two-goal efforts from Travis Hamonic and TIm Stutzle along with a goal and assist from defenceman Jakob Chychrun in his first home game since being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes.

The Senators last won five consecutive games in March 2017, before they went to the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference playoff final.

Defenceman Jake Sanderson also had two assists, and netminder Cam Talbot registered his 15th win of the season.

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Fans chanted “We Want Playoffs” as the clock ticked down in the third period with the two points were well in hand.

“It gave me chills,” Stutzle said.

He wasn’t alone on that front.

“The crowd had great energy right from the get go,” said coach D.J. Smith. “It’s a credit to our guys for dragging this group along. We were down and out essentially. What they’ve done here lately, and what they did stay afloat in December and January, our core group of guys believe in each other.

“There is a buzz but there’s still lots of track here.”

With the Pittsburgh Penguins losing 4-1 decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, the Senators closed the gap for the final wildcard spot in the East. They, the Panthers, Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals are breathing down the necks of the Penguins, all just three points back.

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This Hockey Night in Canada contest had a playoff feel, but the Senators need to keep winning to have a realistic shot at making the post-season. They just can’t afford to let points slip away.

The Jackets came into this game ranked last overall in the 32-team league with 46 points, but they also had best odds of winning the lottery to draft Regina Pats star Connor Bedard No. 1 overall. The Chicago Blackhawks were only point ahead of them.

The Senators will open a five-game road trip Monday night in the Windy City, but Smith had no concerns his club will be overconfident heading into that one.

“We don’t really look at where they are in the standings. Every team can beat anybody. We just played our game,” said Stutzle.

Coming off a 5-3 win over the Rangers in New York on Thursday, Smith went back to Talbot for the start in net. A lot of this night Talbot had the best seat in the house because the Senators spent most of the game putting heat on the Jackets.

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Senators defenceman Travis Hamonic (23) celebrates with winger Mathieu Joseph after scoring the first of his two goals against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
Senators defenceman Travis Hamonic (23) celebrates with winger Mathieu Joseph after scoring the first of his two goals against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA TODAY Sports

The Senators led 4-2 through 40 minutes, dominating in every part of the game. The Jackets had little in the way of opportunities.

Patrik Laine cut the Senators’ lead to two goals on the power play at 10:56 of the second period. He took a pass and fired a blast by Talbot on the glove side. That was only the seventh shot Talbot had faced in the first 31 minutes.

The crowd went wild as Chychrun scored his first goal with the Senators for a 4-1 lead at 3:04 of the second period. He went top shelf on Elvis Merzlikins’ stick side, so Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen then made a change in net, inserting Michael Hutchinson.

Chychrun couldn’t have scripted a better debut in Ottawa.

“The boys played a pretty good game, the crowd was into it and we got the win. I don’t know if any game is perfect, but that was pretty darn close,” said Chychrun, who was encouraging the crowd to make more noise in the third. “I don’t know what made me do that. It was spur of the moment and they got me going.”

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Suiting up for his 780th NHL game, Hanomic registered his first two-goal effort, the second after he picked up a rebound in front of the net. That came at 2:16 of the second with Talbot out of his net in favour of an extra attacker on a delayed penalty call.

Hamonic said his teammates were giving a hard time about scoring two goals and noted he had a couple of hat-tricks in junior.

“The boys had some fun with it for sure. It’s not every night you score a couple in a game. The important is we won,” said Hamonic. “We’ve got to keep our foot on the pedal. We’re having fun and we’re playing well.”

The Senators outshot the Jackets 15-3 in the first period it wouldn’t have been close if not for Merzlikins. The Jackets, coming off 4-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken at home Friday, arrived in Ottawa late.

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Stutzle’s 30th goal of the season resulted in Chychrun’s first point with Ottawa. A turnover at the blue-line allowed Chychrun to start the rush and Stutzle made no mistake, beating Merzlikins on the stick side for a 2-1 lead at 11:18 of the opening period.

The teams had exchanged goals 18 seconds apart earlier.

Hamonic opened the scoring with his fourth of the season at 5:17, firing a blast from the point by Merzlikins on the glove side. That was Hamonic’s first goal since Dec. 8 against the Dallas Stars, ending a drought of 35 games.

The celebration didn’t last long, though, because Jack Roslovic tied it up for the Jackets at 5:35, beating Talbot high on the glove side.


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