It has been a terrific start to the new year for Patrick Lalime. Then again, December also was pretty good to Lalime and his team.
Lalime was not with the team Saturday as Ottawa scored four times in the third period to beat the Washington Capitals 5-2. His wife gave birth earlier in the day to the couple’s second child.
In his only start since the calendar turned to 2004, Lalime made 32 saves in a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders on New Year’s Day for his 30th career shutout. He is 3-0-2 in his last five starts, giving up just eight goals.
Martin Prusek needed to make just 14 saves to win Saturday. Prusek has deservedly been getting a lot of time in net lately, going 6-1 with a 1.04 goals-against average since the start of December.
“A healthy competition is good for both netminders and it’s good for the team. It’s important to have both netminders playing well,” Ottawa coach Jacques Martin said.
The play of Lalime and Prusek has helped the Senators win four straight and go 7-0-2 in their last nine, two shy of the longest unbeaten streak in franchise history. They have lost just twice since December began (11-2-3).
“The biggest difference has been playing for 60 minutes, our goaltending and our defensive play,” Martin said. “We’ve only given up 24 goals in our last 16 games. We’ve got to continue to work hard in that area.”
Ottawa can match the longest home unbeaten streak in team history at eight games Tuesday. The Senators are 6-0-1 in their last seven at the Corel Centre.
The Lightning, opening a five-game road trip, have won only once in their last six away from home (1-4-1).
However, they are coming off an impressive victory, winning for just the third time in 13 games by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 6-1 on Saturday.
Frederik Modin had three goals after failing to score in his previous 13 games as Tampa Bay broke out of a scoring slump. The Lightning had scored nine goals in their last seven games.
“We have been working hard and we’ve been playing well offensively,” Modin said. “It’s just the puck hasn’t gone in for us.”
STANDINGS (through Jan. 4): Lightning - 39 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Southeast Division. Senators - 48 points, 2nd place, 5 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Vincent Lecavalier, 13 goals; Martin St. Louis, 20 assists and 31 points; Chris Dingman, 88 PIM. Senators - Marian Hossa and Daniel Alfredsson, 16 goals; Marian Hossa, 22 assists and 38 points; Chris Neil, 82 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 4): Lightning - Power play: 13.6 percent (23 for 169), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.2 percent (116 for 133), 4th. Senators - Power play: 20.8 percent (36 for 173), 5th. Penalty killing: 87.4 percent (146 for 167), 3rd.
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 11; Senators, 3-2. At Ottawa, Hossa scored for the first time in 10 games and Lalime made 22 saves.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 6-7-3-0 on the road; Senators - 12-7-3-2 at home.