GARRIOCH: Senators continue to roll with surprising 8-2 victory over Florida Panthers

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The eight goals were the most Ottawa has scored against Florida in franchise history.

Author of the article:

Bruce Garrioch

Publishing date:

Dec 15, 2021  •  December 15, 2021  •  4 minute read  •  Join the conversation Dylan Gambrell of the Ottawa Senators is congratulated by teammates after he scored a second-period goal against the Florida Panthers at the FLA Live Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 in Sunrise, Fla.Dylan Gambrell of the Ottawa Senators is congratulated by teammates after he scored a second-period goal against the Florida Panthers at the FLA Live Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 in Sunrise, Fla. Photo by Joel Auerbach /Getty Images

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Senators 8, Panthers 2

No better place than the Sunshine State for the Ottawa Senators to serve notice they’re sizzling.

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Led by a three-point night from centre Josh Norris, along with 35 stops from Anton Forsberg, the Senators scored a convincing 8-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the FLA Live Arena.

While Norris had a two-goal effort to lead the way, Brady Tkachuk, Nick Paul, Drake Batherson, Tim Stuetzle, Austin Watson and Dylan Gambrell also chipped in as the Senators won for fifth time in six games. Forsberg has recorded all five of those victories and the Senators were full value for this win.

The eight goals were the most Ottawa has scored against Florida in franchise history.

This was only second loss at home for the Panthers in 16 games this season. The Senators have now won two straight and they’ve done it in style. They’re playing better defensively by not giving up the big chances that have landed in their net in the past.

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After recording a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday at home, the Senators wanted to pick up where they left off against the Panthers. Florida came into this game with only one loss in its last 15 games at home so this was going to be a difficult task.

Josh Norris #9 of the Ottawa Senators scores a second-period goal on Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers. Josh Norris #9 of the Ottawa Senators scores a second-period goal on Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers. Photo by Joel Auerbach /Getty Images

The Panthers are one of the league’s top teams. They went into this game as the NHL’s third-highest-scoring team with 101 goals in 27 games. They were without top forward Aleksander Barkov, but they had former Ottawa winger Anthony Duclair back from an upper-body injury.

The Senators knew they had their hands full with this challenge, but the club extended its road winning streak to three straight games. The only loss in this six-game stretch was a 5-3 decision against the New York Islanders at home last week with Filip Gustavsson in the net.

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Goaltender Anton Forsberg #31 of the Ottawa Senators stops a shot by Aleksi Heponiemi #20 of the Florida Panthers during the second period. Goaltender Anton Forsberg #31 of the Ottawa Senators stops a shot by Aleksi Heponiemi #20 of the Florida Panthers during the second period. Photo by Joel Auerbach /Getty Images

“It’s next shift and next guy up. There’s a really good feeling in that room right now, but we’ve got to make sure we keep our foot on the pedal,” said coach D.J. Smith. “When you go through the stretch we went through in November, with guys out and losing, we’ve enjoyed the winning and having success against good teams.

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to win a hockey game.”

Paul, with his first in 17 games, Tkachuk, Batherson and Norris put this one away with goals in the third on Florida backup Spencer Knight. The Panthers were a frustrated lot.

“We just needed a couple of wins under our belt to get that feeling back in the room,” said Paul. “When you’re losing, things are going the wrong way. Right now, we’re working hard together.”

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Outshot by the Panthers 13-8 in the second period, the Senators relied on a strong effort from Forsberg and beat Knight three times to pull to a 4-2 lead heading to the third.

Goaltender Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers defends the net against a shot from Dylan Gambrell #27 of the Ottawa Senators during the first period. Goaltender Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers defends the net against a shot from Dylan Gambrell #27 of the Ottawa Senators during the first period. Photo by Joel Auerbach /Getty Images

Stuetzle fired a blast by Knight from the slot at 17:26 of the second to give the club the two-goal lead. That came as a result of some good work by Connor Brown keeping the puck in the Florida zone and then feeding a pass to Stuetzle in the slot to set up his fourth of the season.

Only 39 seconds after the Panthers tied it up, Norris scored his 13th of the season at 16:12 by beating Knight low to restore the club’s lead to 3-2. The officials missed it completely and allowed play to continue for another 34 seconds until the replay booth blew the horn to confirm it was a goal.

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A terrible giveaway by Zach Sanford in the Ottawa end allowed Sam Reinhart to tie it up 2-2 for Florida with his ninth of the season at 15:33.

If you want to look at an area that’s made a difference, look no further than the penalty kill. The club has killed 14 straight penalties dating back to the club’s 6-5 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 4 at home. The Panthers went 0-for-6 on the power play in this one.

Owen Tippett #74 of the Florida Panthers and Zach Sanford #13 of the Ottawa Senators battle for the puck along the boards during the first period. Owen Tippett #74 of the Florida Panthers and Zach Sanford #13 of the Ottawa Senators battle for the puck along the boards during the first period. Photo by Joel Auerbach /Getty Images

If that wasn’t enough, Gambrell scored his first in 15 games with Ottawa shorthanded to give the Senators a 2-1 lead only 1:30 into the second. He took a pass from Connor Brown, skated in alone and beat Knight on the glove side for his first since April 10 when he was with San Jose.

“Any time you can contribute, it feels good to help the team,” Gambrell said. “We just stuck with it, we each other’s backs and that’s led to a lot of confidence.”

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The Panthers tied it up 1-1 at 13:05 of the first. After winning the faceoff in the Ottawa zone, Jonathan Huberdeau fought off a check and scored his 10th of the season by beating Forsberg on the stick side.

The Senators got on the board first.

Watson did a good job going to the front of the net. He picked up a rebound of a Thomas Chabot shot from the point to beat Knight for his second of the season.

Goaltender Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers stops a shot by Zach Sanford #13 of the Ottawa Senators during the first period. Goaltender Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers stops a shot by Zach Sanford #13 of the Ottawa Senators during the first period. Photo by Joel Auerbach /Getty Images

The Senators have played the best hockey we’ve seen this season in the last two weeks.

“I don’t think we had many practices and COVID-19 hit us really early in the month (of November), and now we’re getting a chance to practise so coaches can implement their systems,” GM Pierre Dorion said in an interview with TSN Tuesday. “We’re playing hard. Guys are finding ways to win instead of finding ways to lose.”

The Senators will face the Bolts on Thursday in Tampa as this trip continues.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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