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Anderson backstops Sens past Predators

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Goaltender Craig Anderson enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013 as he backstopped the Ottawa Senators' surprising appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

If Saturday night's 2-1 shootout win over the Nashville Predators at sold-out Bridgestone Arena is any indication, Anderson might be on the verge of regaining that form.

Anderson (15-9-5) entered the evening with a mediocre goals-against-average of 3.18 and a save percentage of only .903, far inferior to last year's 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage. But he turned away 32 of 33 shots, including six in overtime, as Ottawa (20-18-8) won for the fifth time in six games.

"It's great to get the two points," Anderson said. "We played a solid defensive game and waited for opportunities. We didn't try to make something out of nothing. We didn't force anything."

The Senators managed just five shots over the last 30 minutes, including none in overtime, and had to kill off a power play over the last 96 seconds of overtime. Defenseman Marc Methot was whistled for holding the stick of center Mike Fisher, giving Nashville (19-20-7) a 4-on-3 advantage.

But Anderson recorded three saves, pushing the game into a shootout. That was trouble for the Predators, who fell to 0-4 in the tiebreaker and have managed only one goal.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz has referred to the shootout as a "skills competition" in the past, but he says the team needs to do better in that situation.

"We've gone through sort of a pecking order," Trotz said. "I think we've tried about 10 different guys. We've got to score goals in the shootout. Those are valuable points."

Anderson stopped centers Craig Smith and David Legwand in the shootout, while Ottawa centers Mika Zibanejad and Jason Spezza beat rookie goalie Marek Mazanec (8-9-4). The result enabled the Senators to tie Detroit for eighth place in the East, pending the outcome of the Red Wings' late game Saturday night in Los Angeles.

"It's not that big a deal yet," Spezza said of the playoff race. "We passed two clubs tonight, but we could be passed by two or three more if they win tomorrow night."

Neither team scored in the first period, although Nashville had the best opportunity. Left winger Viktor Stalberg beat defenseman Joe Corvo on a rush down the left side and Corvo took him down from behind, forcing a penalty shot at 11:47.

But Anderson kept the game scoreless with a nice glove save on Stalberg's 16-foot wrist shot from just inside the left faceoff circle.

Senators center Kyle Turris took advantage of a giveaway from defenseman Mattias Ekholm to give his team a 1-0 lead at 6:23 of the second period. Ekholm tried to chip the puck out of trouble off the boards behind the net, but it went right on Turris' stick and he ripped his 12th goal past Mazanec's stick side.

The Predators tied it at 16:59 of the second as former Ottawa fan-favorite Mike Fisher potted his 12th of the season. Defenseman Ryan Ellis shoveled a shot which was deflected toward Fisher, and the center rapped it past Anderson.

Nashville controlled the flow of play for most of the third period, outshooting the Senators 7-1 at one point and 11-5 for the period. But Anderson supplied clutch saves, including one on Smith to fend off an odd-man rush.

Then Anderson denied the Predators in the shootout, using a strategy which would have made Kevin Costner's Crash Davis proud.

"Don't think," he said. "It can only hurt the ballclub."

NOTES: Ottawa RW Chris Neil (hamstring) missed his fourth game. Neil has been practicing with the team but won't play until at least Tuesday, when the Senators are in Minnesota. ... Nashville RW Patric Hornqvist sat out his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night's win over San Jose. ... This was the first time the teams have met in Nashville in more than three calendar years. The last get-together was Dec. 23, 2010, a 2-1 Ottawa win. ... Predators D Kevin Klein played in his 400th career game Saturday night. ... Mazanec finished with 20 saves.
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