Streaking Senators look to pass Canucks in standings

NHL Hockey

The Ottawa Senators’ current surge has them in position to surpass the Vancouver Canucks and momentarily move out of the basement in the North Division.

Looking to beat the Canucks in Vancouver for the second time in three days, the visiting Senators would cap a perfect road stretch with their season-high fourth consecutive victory Saturday night.

While the playoffs aren’t on the immediate horizon for Ottawa, the race to avoid a last-place finish in the North is something worth achieving. The Senators (17-26-4, 38 points) are only one point behind Vancouver (18-19-3, 39 points) following Thursday’s 3-0 road win over the Canucks.

Matt Murray made 31 saves for his second shutout in three games while Connor Brown and Drake Batherson each scored as the Senators beat Vancouver for the first time in six tries this season (1-3-2). Ottawa has outscored its last three opponents — all on the road — 11-2.

Owing to their extended bout with the coronavirus, the Canucks have seven games in hand on the Senators, but for Murray and Co., the chance to improve their division standing is important.

“I’m really proud of the way that we’re growing and learning and the way we’ve played the last few games — and the way we’re trending,” said Murray, who has stopped 80 of 82 shots over the last three games.

“It’s awesome to see. You know, we’re learning all the right lessons and we’re definitely pushing in the right direction here.”

Ottawa last won four straight overall in March 2017 and has not done so on the road since November 2016. This will be second of four consecutive meetings against Vancouver, with the matchups shifting to Ottawa on Monday and Wednesday.

The Canucks totaled nine goals in beating Toronto twice in their return from a near month-long pause due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but they were blanked for fifth time this season Thursday.

“I don’t know if anyone’s really at 100 percent. I know COVID took a toll on us,” said Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko, who made 22 saves on Thursday in his first game action since March 24.

“Obviously, it’s tough to take that much time off, but we’ve got a job to do to come in and win some games here. That’s what everyone’s geared towards and ready to go.”

As Vancouver eyes a rebound Saturday, it still must improve some special-teams play. Vancouver is just 2-for-16 on the power play over the last nine games, and has allowed opponents to go 9-for-19 with man-advantage over the last seven contests.

Vancouver’s Brock Boeser is tied for the team lead with 16 goals, but he doesn’t have any in his last five games. Teammate J.T. Miller has just two points over his last five.

With Thursday’s defeat, Demko is 4-1-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average against Ottawa this season. Braden Holtby won the two games against Toronto upon his team’s return, and made 36 saves in a 4-1 home victory over the Senators on Jan. 28.

Brown’s team-leading 17th goal on Thursday for Ottawa was his first in the season series against the Canucks, and 11th over 12 games overall. Batherson has 16 goals in 2020-21, and three with two assists on the Senators’ current trip.

–Field Level Media

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