OTTAWA -- It was his center's birthday, but Cory Conacher
received the gift.
The Ottawa Senators winger graciously accepted an errant pass in the second period by Washington Capitals
goalie Braden Holtby
and fired the puck into a vacated net for the decisive goal in a 3-1 win on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place.
The loss ended the Caps' winning streak at eight games and left the Southeast Division leaders 0-2 this season against the Senators, their possible first-round playoff opponents.
It was the fourth victory in a row for the Senators, who are 15-3-3 at home and nestled in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
"At first, obviously, it's a little stunning," Conacher said of the Holtby feed that was intended for defenseman Karl Alzner. "But you've got to be ready for anything like that. It was a little bit of a miscue. I kind of snuck off the bench, and I think their D-man was also pretty tired.
"It all worked out for me and luckily I put it in the empty net."
It was Conacher's 11th goal of the season, his second since being acquired by the Senators at the deadline and his first while wearing an Ottawa jersey on Scotiabank Place ice. Since the Senators traded goalie Ben Bishop to get him, Conacher has fit in well on an all-rookie line with Jakub Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad, who turned 20 on Thursday.
"It was just one of those plays," Holtby said. "I didn't make a tape-to-tape pass. I got a little rushed with the pressure on me. I had to try and make a blind pass and didn't execute it." Kyle Turris
had the Senators' other goals, the second with Holtby on the bench for an extra attacker.
Mike Riberio scored for the Caps's goal.
The Caps lost center Nicklas Backstrom in the third period when he was hit in the arm by a shot from teammate Mike Green. The extent of his injury is unknown.
The Senators dominated play for the most part, outshooting the Caps 38-19. Still, goalie Craig Anderson's breakaway stop off Eric Fehr with just under nine minutes to go allowed them to take the lead into the final stages.
Washington's Jason Chimera said his team lacked emotion. Green also said the Caps were flat.
"They had a lot of offense and it was tough to get the puck back and do our thing," Green said. "They played a great game tonight."
Ottawa held the red-hot Alex Ovechkin to four shots, including one in the first two periods. The secret to their success in shutting down the NHL's leading sniper?
"That's locked up tight with the Caramilk secret," joked defenseman Chris Phillips, who turned in one of his best games of the season. "Everything went right. He's that type of player, if he gets a little bounce here or there, and he's able to get a shot off ... every shot he takes is dangerous. But the bounces went our way tonight, and we did a good job of making sure we always had someone close to him."
Turris opened the scoring with a wrist shot that beat Holtby on the stick side. The Caps evened the count 10 minutes later when Ribeiro batted in a puck off the post.
Aided largely by two power-play chances, the Senators held an 11-4 shots advantage after a scoreless first period.
The victory will have the Senators riding high into the showdown Saturday in Ottawa with the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom they trail by one point.
"It's huge to go up against a top team and be able to shut them down and come out with the two points," Phillips said. "It feels good. We're certainly proud of what we did and our effort. At the same time, we enjoy tonight, take a look at the things we are doing to be successful, and get ready for the next game."
Holtby decided that going winless against Ottawa during the regular season could work to the Caps' advantage should the teams meet in the playoffs.
"If you win, you feel confident," he said. "But if you lose, you're bitter and you want revenge. It works either way.
"It's just nice to get familiar with the team. We haven't played them in a while. We'll learn from it, watch the film and make sure we're better next time."
NOTES: Ottawa's Sergei Gonchar was playing his first game as the league's all-time top scoring Russian defenseman. Gonchar moved ahead of Sergei Zubov with two assists in Tuesday's win over Carolina. ... Washington coach Adam Oates and Gonchar used to drive to the rink together as Capitals teammates for six seasons. They were 1-2 in Caps scoring during the 1999-2000 season. ... What did Zibanejad want for his birthday? "A hat trick," he said after the morning skate. Instead, he had to settle for seven shots on goal and perhaps the best game of his career. ... It looked like Washington center Marcus Johansson would be scratched from the lineup the way he limped off the ice during the morning skate. Johansson, who entered the night with 17 points in his previous 17 games, recovered in time for the opening puck drop. ... The second-period goal by Turris was the 100th point of his NHL career.
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