Chiasson scores late winner as Sens down Jets

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[March 31, 2016]  WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Ottawa Senators forward Alex Chiasson admits he was simply the beneficiary of a lucky bounce Wednesday night.

But the Senators require more than a few breaks to stay in the NHL playoff race -- they need a miracle.

Powered by Chiasson's eighth goal of the season midway through the third period, the Ottawa staved off elimination with a 2-1 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre.

Digging the puck out of the corner, left winger Ryan Dzingel quickly sent it to the front of the net. The disc glanced off Jets center Mark Scheifele's skate and caromed to Chiasson, who beat goalie Michael Hutchinson at the 8:51 mark.

"It was a lucky bounce there," said Chiasson, who helped his team secure their sixth straight win at the MTS Centre. "A good forecheck by Dzingel... it kind of bounced onto my stick and it was nice to get rewarded."

Scheifele had evened the score 1-1 with his 26th goal of the season just two minutes earlier, snapping a shot past goalie Andrew Hammond after right winger Blake Wheeler found him streaking to the net.

The Senators (35-33-9) pulled to within eight points of the idle Detroit Red Wings in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, but have just five games left in the regular season.

After going winless in their last three games, a tidy road triumph was a relief, said Chiasson.

"At this point in the season, you have to play your system. Guys are battling some injuries and the energy level is maybe not as high as it is in November or December. So, you've got to play the system," he said. "It's nice to see everyone rolling well. I can't say there was a line that wasn't playing up to the standards. It was a good effort for that."

Winnipeg (31-39-7) is winless in its last three games and remains last in the Central Division.

Ottawa center Zach Smith notched his career-high 22nd goal of the season early in the first period to open the scoring. He took a pass from right winger Mark Stone on a two-on-break and tucked the puck behind Winnipeg goalie Hutchinson at 3:16 on the first shot of the game for the visitors.

It was Smith's first goal in seven games, after scoring in five straight contests before the dry spell.

The largest cheer from the home crowd came with eight minutes left in the second period when defenseman Dustin Byfuglien flattened Stone with, perhaps, the most punishing body check of the Jets season.

Stone, 23, was caught with his head down just outside the Jets blue line on what looked like a clean but crushing hit. He rose quickly but was immediately shepherded off the ice by a member of Senators training staff. He returned to the bench just four minutes later and finished the period, but didn't come out for the final frame.

Smith jumped on Byfuglien after the collision and put the hulking defenseman in a bear hug, earning him the lone penalty on the play. But he'd have no hesitation doing it again, he said.

"(Stone) is one of our best players, if not our best player. And regardless of who it is, we're going to jump in," said Smith. "I didn't see the hit exactly as it happened, but a big collision like that you're going to get in there pretty quick. When a guy's in a vulnerable position like that and a big guy like Byfuglien makes that hit, you're going to jump in."

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Hammond wasn't swamped with work but had to be alert on a couple of chances by the Jets, including a brilliant glove save off Drew Stafford with eight minutes left in the third period and a kick save off center Andrew Copp with about five minutes left to play.

Defenseman Erik Karlsson blocked a shot by Stafford that had looked destined to go in with under a minute left and the Jets net empty to solidify the two points.

"The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is the shot blocks throughout the game at key times. Whether it was on the penalty kill or at the end of the game there when they had the goalie out, that was a huge part," Hammond said.

Hammond finished with 20 saves, while Hutchinson stopped 17 drives.

Winnipeg's power play unit was shut out in three opportunities, while the Senators finished 0-for-2 with the man advantage.

Scheifele said the Jets failed to generate much in the way of offense early on.

"It wasn't going very well at the start of the game. It wasn't what we wanted," he said. "We weren't creating a whole lot, and then we started to get on the forecheck. And once we started to get our feet moving and getting behind their (defense), we started to create a little more."

NOTES: The Jets scratched RW JC Lipon (upper body), C Mathieu Perreault (upper body), C Bryan Little (upper body), RW Anthony Peluso (upper body) and C Chase De Leo (healthy scratch). Ottawa didn't dress D Mark Borowiecki (lower body), D Patrick Wiercioch (upper body) and C Scott Gomez (healthy scratch). ... Senators D Cody Ceci played his 200th career game Wednesday. ... The Jets signed undrafted forward Brandon Tanev, 24, to a two-way contract for the remainder of the season. The Toronto native just recently finished his collegiate career with Providence College. Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice hinted he'd like to see Tanev, the younger brother of Vancouver D Chris Tanev, play in at least one of the Jets' final five games. ... Ottawa G Craig Anderson is expected to play Thursday in Minnesota against the Wild as the team finishes off back-to-back road games for the last time this season. ... The Jets host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night and then play their final home game Sunday night against the Minnesota Wild. ... Ottawa travels to Minneapolis to take on the Wild on Thursday night and then finish up a three-game road trip Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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