OTTAWA (TICKER) —Alex Tanguay continues to reap the benefits of playing with one of the greatest in the game.
After a subpar 2001-02 season and a slow start to this one, Tanguay was placed on a line centered by Hart Trophy candidate Peter Forsberg and has not looked back, amassing 54 points in his last 46 games. Along the way, he compiled an NHL-best 16-game points streak.
With goaltender Patrick Roy pulled for an extra attacker, Forsberg took a feed from captain Joe Sakic behind the net and lifted a pass over a defenseman’s stick to Tanguay, who put the puck past Patrick Lalime from the doorstep to tie it.
“Whenever you score with less than one minute left, you think you can relax and get away with the two points,” Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “Forsberg made an unbelievable play and you have to tip your hat to him. It was unlucky for us, but I think Patrick Roy was the difference in the game.”
Ottawa had taken the lead, thanks to Vaclav Varada.
After drawing the penalty that put the Senators on the power play, Varada redirected defenseman Zdeno Chara’s slap shot from the blue line just inside the left goalpost with 54 seconds left in the third to break a 1-1 tie.
“I got the pass on my backhand, so I put it on my forehand right away and just tried to hit the net,” Chara said. “I think a Colorado player tipped it and it got deflected by Vaclav. It’s a good thing the puck ended up in the net.”
Martin Havlat also tallied for Ottawa, which extended its unbeaten streak to four games.
Defenseman Rob Blake scored his second goal in three games and Roy turned aside 37 shots for the Avalanche, who moved two points ahead of fifth-place St. Louis for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
“Having a great performance like this against a great team in the East is very encouraging,” Colorado coach Tony Granato said. “Last night, we were looking past Buffalo to tonight. It’s tough when the team you are trying to catch keeps getting points. But the effort and drive we had this game shows our determination is there.”
After a scoreless first period, Ottawa took the lead 98 seconds into the second.
From the neutral zone, Alfredsson hit Havlat with a pass at the Colorado blue line, sending the 21-year-old Czech in on a breakaway. Goalless in his previous nine games, Havlat beat Roy to the stick side for his 21st of the season.
Alfredsson’s assist was his 51st of the season, breaking Alexei Yashin’s 1998-99 team record.
“I didn’t know about it myself until they announced it on the Jumbotron,” Alfredsson said. “This has been a good year for myself and the team.”
With both teams down a man, Blake grabbed a loose puck just outside his own blue line and burst into the Ottawa zone between two defensemen before unleashing a wrist shot that sneaked between Lalime and the right post with 2:36 left in the period.
“It came at a good time,” Blake said. “They were about to get a power play. I just took the turnover down the ice. I wasn’t thinking pass, I was trying to get by one guy. I made the shot and fortunately, it went in.”
Marian Hossa nearly extended his points streak on a breakaway midway through the second, but his shot bounced off the left post, ending his run at eight games.
Varada collided with Roy behind the Avalanche net while the goalie was playing the puck late in the third, but no penalty was called. Moments later, Varada fell on Roy in the crease, sparking a scrum and a roughing penalty on Blake.
“I was telling (Roy) that someone pushed me, and then he popped me once,” Varada said. “The referees were right there and we got a power play out of it.”
“I’m a bit surprised that referees don’t give a little more protection to goalies,” Roy said. “I’ve seen a lot of goalies getting hurt lately. They’re fearless because the nets move up easily. I think the league has to look at that.”