Auld stops Sens' slide cold

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

You had to wonder when the effects of this disappointing season would show up in the form of empty seats at Scotiabank Place.

The perfect storm -- a team bound to miss the playoffs, a three-game losing streak, the beginning of an eight-game homestand and an opponent without much sizzle -- resulted in an announced crowd of 16,541 fans showing up at Scotiabank Place for the Senators' 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes last night.

A quick scan of attendance figures shows that is the smallest crowd at Scotiabank Place in more than five years, since 16,420 showed up for a win over the Chicago Blackhawks Dec. 18, 2003.

Those who did attend got to see the Senators reverse their trend of falling behind early, as they had in their last two games, jumping out to a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes and battling the 'Canes, who are fighting for a playoff spot in the East, to a stalemate after that.

"In this league, it's big to get the lead," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who played his second game with a fractured jaw and earned an assist -- the 901st point of his NHL career -- on the opening goal, Dany Heatley's 30th of the season.

"We regrouped after a so-so second and played a real strong third."

One of the things Senators coach Cory Clouston was looking for last night in switching from rookie goaltender Brian Elliott to veteran Alex Auld was a meaningful save early in the game. Mistakes in front of Elliott had wound up behind him, and Clouston is looking for that save from his goaltender which goes a bit beyond the call of duty.

Auld gave them that kind of save when he stopped Carolina star Eric Staal on a breakaway after newcomer Chris Campoli turned the puck over inside the 'Canes blue line six minutes into the game.

"It's been talked about, and when we get it, it's a big boost," said Alfredsson of the save, one of 41 Auld made on the night -- but none bigger than that. "He wins the one-on-one battle with Staal and then we score and that gives us momentum and they're like, 'Oh, no, it's going to be one of those nights.' "

Auld made another good pad save during a Carolina power play five minutes later to keep the game scoreless, and Heatley gave the Senators their first lead in a couple of games with his eighth in seven games.

Ex-Senator Patrick Eaves quickly got one back for Carolina, and it looked like the Senators had frittered away their momentum.

But after some strong work by Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly was alone just to Ward's left and beat him for his seventh of the season to put Ottawa up 2-1 at 14:49.

Mike Comrie scored a big goal -- his first since Friday's trade -- with just 11 seconds left in the opening period to put the Senators in control. That led to 'Canes goaltender Cam Ward being lifted to start the second in favour of Michael Leighton.

Jason Spezza scored his 22nd of the season two minutes into the second on the power play to make it 4-1. Carolina defenceman Anton Babchuk scored with less than two minutes to go in the second on the power play, but that was as close as the Hurricanes would get.


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