RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—The Ottawa Senators already had plenty of motivation against a Carolina team that had taken both meetings this season.
Playing for teammate Chris Neil made them even more determined against the Hurricanes.
Hours after the right winger learned his mother had died in a car accident in Canada, the Senators got the go-ahead goal from Jason Spezza in the third period to beat the Hurricanes 5-3 in a matchup of two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams Tuesday night.
Mike Fisher had a goal and two assists for the Senators (16-3), who came in with the conference’s best record. Dany Heatley assisted on Spezza’s goal, pushing his team-record point streak to 19 games.
Neil—the team’s fifth-leading scorer with 14 points—was informed of his mother’s accident while at the team hotel following the morning skate. He left the team to fly home to be with family, with agent Todd Reynolds telling the Ottawa Sun that Neil was “devastated.”
That left the team to try to focus on hockey not long after his departure.
“It was the quietest bus I’d been in in a long time,” Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said. “I don’t think anyone knew what to do or say.”
The Senators responded with a road win against a team that stood one point back in the standings and had won eight of 10 at the RBC Center.
“Before the game, we just said we wanted to play for Chris,” said Fisher, Neil’s best friend on the team. “He gives his heart and soul to this team. We’re all feeling for him right now. We all want to play as hard as we can for him and his family.
“It was just a devastating afternoon for all of us.”
Ottawa has had plenty of trouble with Carolina, starting with a 3-2 road loss last month that ended the Senators’ six-game winning streak to open the season. The Senators have won eight of nine with the only loss coming to the Hurricanes at home last week.
But the Senators came out ahead this time, sealing the win when Peter Schaefer scored an empty-net goal in the final seconds.
“You don’t want to lose three in a row to anyone,” Spezza said. “But we’ve got a good thing going here. We’re winning hockey games and we just want to keep it going. The more wins you get, the better.”
After Stillman tied the game early in the third, the Senators pushed back ahead with Spezza’s seventh goal. Heatley stripped Justin Williams near the blue line and pushed the puck toward the crease on the right side before sending it toward Daniel Alfredsson.
The puck found Spezza on the left side. He whiffed on his first shot before knocking it past Martin Gerber at 4:15 of the third.
“We came back,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “It seemed like we gained momentum in the game and we turned the puck over and it cost us.”
Ottawa got off to another fast start against Carolina, with Fisher and Schubert scoring in the first 10 minutes. After a Carolina turnover on the power play, Fisher beat Gerber for a short-handed goal at 3:18.
Schubert then corralled a puck that caromed off the boards behind the net and slipped it by Gerber—who appeared to deflect it in—at 8:55.
Staal gave the Hurricanes a boost with a quick response, flipping a backhand shot by Dominik Hasek while tangling with Chris Phillips near the crease less than a minute later. The Hurricanes tied it 2-2 when Cole brought the puck around from behind the net and sent it toward the crease, where Adams slipped it under Hasek at 13:32.
The teams then traded goals, first with Wade Redden scoring on a shot from just inside the blue line on a second-period power play. Carolina answered when Stillman scored on a rebound off a shot from Matt Cullen early in the third.
Heatley has 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) and is the only NHL player to have a point in each of his team’s games this season. … Carolina D Bret Hedican played in his 200th game with the Hurricanes franchise. … Ottawa has scored first in 14 of 19 games. … The Senators’ only loss to a team other than Carolina was a 5-3 home defeat to Philadelphia on Oct. 30.