Posted on 05 January 2012. By Ken Warren
Craig Anderson ranks way back of the NHL goaltending pack in a number of categories, but his 19 wins are tied for second in the league.
On Thursday night, Anderson turned in perhaps his best performance of the season, leading his Ottawa Senators to a 4-1 victory on a night they were outplayed for long periods by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Senators have now won four straight games and have at least temporarily moved into fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, but don’t be fooled.
The latest win, which gives the Senators a 21-15-5 record at the midpoint of the season, wouldn’t have been possible without the sparkling play of Anderson. He stopped 35 shots and was only a Steven Stamkos third period goal away from posting his first shutout of the season.
“That’s all that really matters right now, getting two points, regardless of how it happens,” Anderson said, when asked about the statistics. “When we’re behind, we’re battling to get ourselves back in the game and tonight we did a great job of holding on to the lead and sticking with our program, our system.”
Indeed, it was a different route to victory Thursday.
The Senators came into the game having won their previous three in extra time – two in overtime and one in the shootout – coming from behind in all of them. This time around, however, it was about holding on to a lead after Kyle Turris – with his first as a Senator – and Jason Spezza scored to give the Senators a 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
Once the red-hot Stamkos scored at the 8:48 mark of the third period – his 28th of the season and his seventh goal in four games – the Senators were forced to hang on.
Anderson held the fort until Zack Smith scored an insurance goal with 3:26 left. Alfredsson cemented the victory by scoring into an empty net, his third point of the night, and coach Paul MacLean labelled the captain as his best forward.
Alfredsson says Anderson at his best when the Lightning pressed early in the second period and after Stamkos made it 2-1.
“I don’t know what the shots were for awhile there, but the coach wasn’t too happy with us on the bench and (Anderson) was keeping us in it,” Alfredsson said.
The absence of defenceman Chris Phillips to a concussion was noticeable – the Lightning held a 21-9 edge in shots halfway through the game — but the good news for the Senators is that Phillips is showing signs of recovering quickly.
Turris also scored for the first time in eight games since joining the team.
“The biggest thing is confidence,” said Turris, whose goal came on a nifty deflection of an Alfredsson pass. “The guys on the team and coach MacLean have given me that.”
The Lightning, meanwhile, are seeing their season drift away. They’re now 6-14-3 on the road and Thursday’s loss was the latest in a long line where the goaltending wasn’t nearly good enough.
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Why They Won: On the day four Senators were named to the starting lineup for the All-Star Game, they received All-Star goaltending from Craig Anderson, who kept the Senators ahead when the Lightning buzzed around the net early in the second period. Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris also capitalized on Lightning breakdowns.
Stud: Craig Anderson, Senators. Who else? He stopped 35 shots in registering his 19th win of the season. He made some outstanding stops, was in the right place at the right time and, as is usually the case when a netminder is hot, he received his share of lucky bounces. Anderson’s bid for his first shutout of the season ended when Steven Stamkos scored at the 8:48 mark of the third.
Dud: Dwayne Roloson, Lightning. It’s tough to outplay a goaltender who allows only one goal, but Roloson didn’t do himself any favours in giving the Senators their early lead. He kicked out a soft rebound of a Sergei Gonchar shot and was out of position when Spezza slid the puck into the almost empty net. As the Lightning pressed for the tying goal in the final minutes, Roloson looked terrible on Zack Smith’s back-breaker goal.
He Shoots, He Scores…No, Wait: Erik Condra thought he had given the Senators a 2-0 lead with 1:02 left in the first period, tucking the puck past Roloson. Not so fast. The goal was wiped out due to Kyle Turris’s boarding penalty on Matt Gilroy one second earlier.