The unstoppable Senators have gone from snake-bitten to rolling snake eyes.
The franchise record-setting streak continued as the Senators skated to their 11th straight victory with a 3-1 win over the Canucks on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place led by another strong outing from Brian Elliott, who made 29 saves — including 15 in the third period.
Elliott broke a club record he set last season by picking up his ninth straight win, while Daniel Alfredsson had three assists. Milan Michalek, Chris Kelly and Jason Spezza scored as Ottawa moved to within a point of Buffalo for No. 1 in the Northeast.
“We played extremely well coming out of the gate. We played (Wednesday) and we needed a good start,” said Alfredsson. “They had their chances, but overall I thought we played solid. It’s a big win for us, there’s no question.”
The Senators did suffer one loss. Defenceman Erik Karlsson, who has been outstanding of late, left with two minutes remaining in the second period when he sustained an upper-body injury after a collision with Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler.
The Senators, who haven’t lost since Jan. 12 in Atlanta, have outscored the opposition 37-13 during their streak.
The Senators completely shut down the top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows.
“We played a real good first two periods,” said Spezza. “(Elliott) was really solid again. We had some chances and we’re playing good hockey right now. You always want to see a goalie get a shutout, but it’s a pretty tough situation with 6-on-4.”
There was some disappointment that the Canucks decided not to start Roberto Luongo and used backup Andrew Raycroft. The Senators wanted the challenge of beating all three Team Canada goalies — after knocking off Martin Brodeur and Marc-Andre Fleury last week — but didn’t get the chance.
GM Mike Gillis told a Vancouver reporter the decision to start Raycroft was planned after a 3-2 loss to Montreal on Tuesday.
Elliott had to be at his best in the second period when the Canucks tried to mount a charge. Not only did he stop Steve Bernier with back-to-back stops on a breakaway, Elliott also made a spectacular glove save on Alex Edler.
Only Kyle Wellwood was able to beat Elliott and that was late to bring Vancouver within a goal. On back-to-back power plays for the Canucks, Wellwood brought his club to within a goal with 1:39 left in the third period and Anton Volchenkov off for slashing.
It’s all going right for Spezza, who extended his franchise-record goal-scoring streak to eight games by giving the club a 2-0 lead at 18:03 of the first. His attempted pass to Michalek never reached him and ended up trickling past Raycroft on the stick side.
Michalek opened the scoring with his 19th of the season. On the power play, he took a pass from Alex Kovalev in the slot and beat Raycroft on the stick side.
The Senators have only trailed twice during the 11-game winning streak.
The Canucks had a chance to tie it up, but Mason Raymond’s attempt shot bounced off the post behind Elliott, slid across the crease and never crossed the goal-line midway through the first.
The Senators will get another look at the Canucks on March 13 at GM Place, but nobody would mind if they met again in the Stanley Cup final.
Chris Neil had a spirited battle Rick Rypien while Matt Carkner used Tanner Glass as a punching bag.
“You had two Canadian teams going at it,” said Neil. “It was a good atmosphere. A lot of fun. That’s what people like to see. There were some good plays, some good hits and some good back and forth (play).”
The Senators face the Leafs in Toronto on Saturday.