RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—The Ottawa Senators are a major force in the chase for the Stanley Cup.
The Carolina Hurricanes, who played Detroit for the title last year, are out of the picture after a 6-5 loss Tuesday night eliminated them from playoff contention. The victory gave Ottawa a 6-0-2 record against the Hurricanes over the past two seasons.
The two points kept the Senators seven in front of the New Jersey Devils— who also won Tuesday night—for first place in the Eastern Conference. The big picture is the important part, said goaltender Patrick Lalime, who played poorly.
“The biggest thing is it’s a win,” he said.
The Eastern Conference’s highest-scoring team needed all it could get after another shaky performance by Lalime, who made 20 saves as Ottawa broke a two-game losing streak. He has allowed 14 goals in three games.
“It seems like the bounces have been going against me in the last three games,” he said. “What are you going to do? There’s a lot of hockey left.”
Offense has not been a problem for Ottawa. Carolina’s Kevin Weekes entered the game with three shutouts in four starts, but Ottawa beat him twice in each period.
“They worked hard but we were persistent in scoring goals,” Spezza said.
The 22-year-old forward could barely control his excitement, celebrating as Carolina captain Ron Francis—who has scored at least 50 points every year since Surma’s birth—dug the trophy puck out of the net.
“It was definitely the biggest thrill of my life, so far,” Surma said. “It’s luck, basically, to hit a little disc out of the air, but I kept my eyes open.”
Five times, the Senators held a two-goal lead. Redden’s goal put them ahead 6-4 midway through the period.
“Obviously we don’t want to give up leads like that,” Redden said. “We’re pushing for the No. 1 seed and the biggest thing is we want to be playing our game. In the last three games, there’s still some things we want to rectify to get better.”
Weekes, scheduled to have season-ending hand surgery on Friday, stopped just 18 of 24 shots.
Mike Fisher beat Weekes for Ottawa’s first goal at 3:24 of the opening period. Fisher skated around Carolina defender Bruno St. Jacques, fell to his knees, slid in front of Weekes and stuffed a backhander inside the left post for the 1-0 lead.
Spezza’s first goal made it 3-1, but 23 seconds later Vrbata responded for Carolina with a hard shot from the right circle into the top left corner.
Chris Neil pushed Ottawa’s lead to 4-2 at 14:28 when he converted a Carolina giveaway in the neutral zone into his sixth goal.
After Surma’s goal pulled the Hurricanes within 4-3, Spezza kept the puck on a two-on-rush and put a wrist shot from the left circle into the top right corner for his sixth goal of the season.
O’Neill and Redden exchanged goals, and Vrbata’s second of the gamecompleted the scoring with 4:37 remaining.
Surma became the fifth Carolina player to score in his NHL debut this season. … The Senators improved to 11-3-2 against the Southeast Division. Its next two games are at Atlanta and Florida. … Vrbata has scored four goals infour games with Carolina since being traded from Colorado on March 11.