Grand master Phillips sparks Sens
Defenceman nets two goals, Ottawa stops seven-game skid
BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
|Senators defenceman Chris Phillips goes down to block a shot by Predators forward Martin Erat at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., Feb. 9, 2012. (BLAIR GABLE/Reuters)
OTTAWA - Chris Phillips couldn’t have dreamed up a much better ending for his 1,000th game.
Two goals. And, most importantly, the Senators brought a seven-game losing streak to a screeching halt, beating Mike Fisher and the Nashville Predators 4-3.
It was Ottawa’s first win at home since Jan. 8.
Not only did Phillips end a 74-game goal-scoring drought, he did it in dramatic fashion by scoring the winner with a rare power-play goal in the third period for only the fourth two-goal game of his NHL career.
“It’s unbelievable. The whole hype around it was exciting,” said Phillips. “To be in my 1,000th game and then to top it off with a couple of goals and it ends up being the game-winner. You can’t write that stuff.
“Everything turned out great. It just took me 1,000 games to find my offensive side of the game.”
While the fans were chanting “Phillips, Phillips, Phillips,” the Senators wouldn’t have won without a three-point effort from centre Jason Spezza. Wingers Bobby Butler and Milan Michalek had two assists each.
“Philly scoring two goals proves there are hockey gods in rewarding a great person,” said Spezza. “He’s a great teammate. I don’t think that there’s a guy in this room that isn’t happy for him.”
Making his first start since Dec. 30, Alex Auld did a solid job in making 24 stops. Only Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist and Gabriel Bourque were able to beat him.
“I don’t remember any point in the game when it was crazy, but it was steady all night for sure,” said Auld. “It was just nice to get the win.”
Phillips, who was saluted by the fans before the puck was dropped and at a timeout early in the first, picked up a rebound in front to give the club a two-goal cushion at 13:35 of the third, while the Senators were clinging to a 3-2 lead. His teammates tried to get him a third goal.
“When they drew up the play, I thought they better get the puck to me,” said Phillips with a laugh. “It would have been nice, but it doesn’t take away from the night.”
The Senators can only hope this performance against one of the league’s top teams is a step in the right direction. It sure looked that way. They made Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, one of the NHL’s best, look awfully human.
Mike Fisher, who played 12 seasons with Ottawa before being dealt last February, was given a standing ovation. Fisher said coming back wasn’t easy.
“It’s definitely a strange feeling,” said Fisher. “I was a little bit nervous at first. I think my game showed it a little bit. Wasn’t too great tonight.”
Craig Anderson was given his first night off after 18 straight appearances.
The crowd went wild when Phillips scored his first of the season, ending a drought that dated back to Feb. 26, 2011.
Senators coach Paul MacLean said he hopes this is a step in the right direction.
“I hope it’s another stepping stone and a building block in our foundation,” said MacLean. “Can we do it again and again?”
The Senators close out the homestand on Hockey Day in Canada Saturday. It’s a 2 p.m. start vs. Edmonton.