Jason Spezza's timing was perfect.
Returning to the lineup after missing two games with what's believed to be a back/groin injury, the Senators centre fired his first goal of the season past Antero Niittymaki at 4:17 of overtime to give Ottawa a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay at Scotiabank Place.
While the Senators came out of the dressing room to salute the troops on Canadian Forces Night, those left in the crowd of 17,511 saluted them right back.
Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson also scored for the Senators, who halted a two-game losing skid. Goalie Pascal Leclaire made 18 saves.
“To get one in overtime, get the win and get my first is always nice,” said Spezza, who hadn’t scored since April 11, in the Senators’ season-ending game — against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I felt pretty good about my game going into this. I just wasn’t getting any bounces. It's nice to get one — that's for sure.”
Trying to get Spezza going, Clouston changed the club’s top line by putting his No. 1 centre with Alfredsson and Milan Michalek. That meant Fisher was in the middle of Kovalev and Ryan Shannon.
“It’s only a matter of time before he gets on the scoreboard,” said Clouston. “I thought he was really strong, really solid and, cross my fingers, I hope he’ll come out of this game as healthy as he went into it. And, if he did, then I think we’ve kind of turned the corner (with this injury).
“We wanted to make sure when he did come back, he wasn’t 60-70%. We wanted him as close to 100% as possible. Obviously, a lot of guys aren’t going to ever play 100%, but I thought he was really good (last night).”
The Senators had to battle through adversity, with two goals called back in the dying minutes of the third.
The first was by Filip Kuba with 4:09 left when referee Kerry Fraser maintained Tampa touched the puck on delayed penalty. The second was with 26.8 seconds left when it was ruled Chris Kelly touched it with a high stick. Neither decision sat well with the crowd.
“There was no sense in arguing. It was a high stick,” said Kelly. “He didn't have to go upstairs. He was in a perfect position to make the call.”
The other decision was a mistake by Fraser. The Lightning never had control of the puck when Kuba backhanded it home.
“(Fraser) thought (the Tampa player) was going to touch it and he never did,” said Clouston. “He knows he didn’t touch it. We’re fortunate that it didn't cost us the game.”
The Senators host the New Jersey Devils tomorrow.