Sens fight through slop

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

So, as the halfway mark was passed last night, what are we to make of this Senators team as it lurches into the second half of the NHL season?

They had their hands full -- they were lucky, really -- to beat the dregs of the Eastern Conference last night, a painfully sloppy 4-3 win in overtime over the Lightning.

So, are the Senators the team that glittered in a fast start? Or the one which has struggled mightily in the last week against the East's 14th- and 15th-placed teams?

The easy answer is somewhere in the middle, of course.

The Senators needed Mike Fisher's goal at 3:17 of overtime last night to finish off the Lightning and give goaltender Ray Emery his second win in as many nights. The Senators overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits.

"We've got to be happy to find a way to come back and win, to find a way to grit it out and get them to overtime," said Senators centre Jason Spezza, who benefited from a nice break -- the kind that dogs a team like the last-placed Lightning, now stuck in a seven-game losing skid.

With Ottawa down 3-2 early in the third, Tampa's Kyle Wanvig let go of his stick after trying to hook Spezza and it went into the corner to the right of the Tampa goal.

Seconds later, Tampa goaltender Johan Holmqvist cleared the puck along the boards. You can guess what happened.

It hit Wanvig's stick and went right to Spezza.

He wheeled it to Senators marksman Dany Heatley in front and the game was tied with his 25th of the season.

"He knew he hooked me so he dropped his stick and it drifted into the corner. I started yelling at the ref, but he didn't call a penalty. It was a little bit of karma," said Spezza. "The hockey gods helped us out. Sometimes you need those bounces over 82 games. You need a little luck on your side."

That set the stage for the Senators' win, which gives them a 27-10-4 record.

The Bolts might have deserved better. They took advantage of the Senators' continuing struggles in their own zone with star Vincent Lecavalier leading the way.

He outmuscled Senators defenceman Chris Phillips on the first goal by Martin St. Louis and dangled Emery with a sweet between-the-skates move (his own, not Emery's) to make it 2-0 with his 28th of the season at 11:27 of the first.

Ottawa's Randy Robitaille made it 2-1 with his first of two on the night with 38.2 seconds left in the first and that had the potential to change the complexion the game, right?

But the Senators' sloppy play in their own zone bit them again before the second period was four minutes old with a turnover by Fisher creating a 2-on-0 with Tampa's Jason Ward feeding Jan Hlavac alone in front of Emery to make it 3-1 at 3:38.

Robitaille scored his sixth at 16:07 (he has six goals this season and they've come in three games; he only scores in twos) to pull the Senators to within a goal again.

"We dug ourselves a hole, but (Robitaille's) goal gave us a boost and we played more of our game in the third," said Fisher. "We found a way to win it late."


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