OTTAWA, ON – The Ottawa Senators got Clarke MacArthur back.
They got their mojo back, too.
Sparked by the shocking return of MacArthur — playing his first game in 17 months — the Senators broke a five-game losing streak with a 2-0 defeat of the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday at Canadian Tire Centre.
Suddenly, the sun is shining on the Senators again. They sit second in the Atlantic Division, now only a single point away from clinching a playoff berth.
Erik Karlsson and Tom Pyatt scored for the Senators, while Craig Anderson made 24 saves to register his fifth shutout of the season.
It was a textbook Guy Boucher-type victory, with the Senators getting out in front and locking down the game with tight defensive discipline. In short, nothing like the disarray and dysfunction they had displayed during their extended slump.
While the Senators were taking care of their business, they were getting help everywhere else, as well.
The victory, coupled with Boston’s 4-0 win over Tampa Bay, means the Senators magic number is one. Any point gained by the Senators or lost by Tampa from here on in gives the Senators a spot in the post-season.
The Senators sit second in the Atlantic with 94 points. Boston, who has officially clinched a playoff berth, also has 94 points, but is third because they only have two games remaining and the Senators have three.
It sets up yet another crucial game Thursday when the Senators and Bruins meet in Boston.
Toronto, who dropped a 4-1 decision to Washington, now owns the second wild card spot, one point behind the Senators and Bruins.
The good news for the Senators began before the game.
The unforeseen return of MacArthur — many of his teammates weren’t aware he was playing until they showed up at the rink late Tuesday afternoon — created plenty of pre-game buzz.
Anderson was also feted in a pre-game celebration for playing in 500 career NHL games. Anderson needed to be sharp early — the Red Wings outshot the Senators 11-6 in the first period — before the Senators found their legs.
Karlsson opened the scoring with 7:01 left in the first period, beating Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard over the shoulder from a nearly impossible angle.
Karlsson has goals in three consecutive games. In his past 15 games, he has seven goals and nine assists, challenging San Jose’s Brent Burns for scoring among defenceman and for Norris Trophy consideration.
The Senators took control of the neutral zone in the second period and took control of the game.
Pyatt’s goal — also from a bad angle — padded the lead to 2-0 with 7:49 left in the second period.
It has been a crazy two days for the Senators and Red Wings.
Both teams flew back to Ottawa immediately after the Red Wings wacky 5-4 shootout win over the Senators in Detroit on Monday.
Despite the defeat, the Senators gained some confidence, rallying from a 4-2 deficit before losing in the shootout, at least picking up one point and giving them something to bring home from an otherwise miserable road trip.
While it’s fingernail-biting, out-of-town scoreboard watching time for Senators fans, Detroit’s sporting attention has turned to the Tigers. The Red Wings are playing solely for pride, their run of making the playoffs in 25 consecutive seasons over.
For the past two days, at least, they’ve found motivation in trying to play the spoiler role, but the Senators wouldn’t allow them to taste victory on consecutive nights.