Sens clinch playoffs Karlsson returns

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 26, 2013

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 18: Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 18, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Erik Karlsson stood outside the visiting locker room, munching on a celebratory slice of pizza. Must have tasted pretty good. Karlsson spent the evening on the ice for the first time in about 2 1/2 months, and he and the Ottawa Senators are heading back to the NHL postseason. They might even wind up back in the same arena next week. Sergei Gonchar scored a power-play goal 47 seconds into overtime on Karlsson's second assist of his successful -- and sooner-than-anticipated -- return from a torn Achilles tendon, and Ottawa clinched a playoff berth by beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Thursday night. ''I would have been happy if I sat in the stands and we would have won this game, as well, I think, and that's the main goal,'' Karlsson said. ''I'm going to have to work on my stuff, and as long as this team keeps winning, I'm going to be happy.'' The overtime wins by the Senators and New York Rangers eliminated the Winnipeg Jets from the playoff chase. Ottawa had lost its previous two games. ''I'm just glad to put all the doubters behind us,'' said Craig Anderson, who made 19 saves. ''We lost a couple games there ... and I think that was kind of the talk: Are we going to fold the tent and go home? But I think we all kind of strapped on the belt and went to work and found ways to make people believers.'' The only shot that got past him was Alex Ovechkin's NHL-leading 32nd goal, which tied the game 8 1/2 minutes into the third period. But ex-Capitals defenseman Gonchar took a pass from Karlsson and put the winner past Michal Neuvirth, who made 39 saves. The Southeast Division champion Capitals had nothing at stake. They already are locked into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Senators, who have two games left, moved up to sixth in the East. If they remain there, Ottawa would face the Capitals, who have won 10 of 12 overall - with the only losses against the Senators. ''If we end up playing them, we'll be ready,'' Washington's first-year coach Adam Oates said. Ottawa won all three regular-season matchups against the Capitals. ''We just came out flat,'' Washington defenseman Mike Green said. ''I don't know what it is the last couple times we've played against them. But it's the way it's gone.'' The Capitals secured their sixth consecutive playoff appearance by clinching the division title with a 5-3 victory over Winnipeg on Tuesday. So while the Capitals didn't need a victory on Thursday, the Senators most certainly did. ''It was a big game,'' Neuvirth pointed out, ''for them.'' For Karlsson, last season's Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's top defenseman, this was his first game since Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke stepped on the back of his leg on Feb. 13. Karlsson originally was expected to miss the rest of the season after surgery, but recently returned to practice. He sat out 31 games, but now is back in time to get into game shape ahead of the playoffs. ''I felt OK,'' Karlsson said. ''Did battle some issues out there, and didn't feel quite as comfortable as I used to, but overall I think it was a solid game. I still have to work through some mistakes and clean those up.'' Karlsson played a game-high 27-plus minutes and managed to demonstrate just how valuable he is. With the game scoreless 12:35 into the second period, from barely inside the blue line, he shook his stick to get the attention of Milan Michalek, whose pass was strongly one-timed by Karlsson toward the net. The puck was redirected by Jakob Silfverberg. Then came the set up for Gonchar. ''Obviously, our team was a different team with him on the ice, and the things that he can do that others can't do. He's a very special player,'' Senators coach Paul MacLean said about Karlsson. ''He's done, obviously, a ton of work.'' Silfverberg briefly stayed down on the ice with about three minutes left after appearing to take a glove to the face from Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy. No penalty was called. But Capitals forward Mike Ribeiro was sent to the box twice in the final five minutes of regulation, and teammate Jason Chimera was given a 10-minute misconduct in the last minute. The game was chippy throughout, including a scrum involving eight players along the boards earlier in the third period. The first period had a handful of near-fights and some late hits. Ovechkin scored his fourth goal in three games, but his first point against Ottawa this season. He gathered the puck near the boards on the right side -- Oates moved him from left wing -- and swept in front of the net with defenseman Chris Phillips riding his back, before flipping a backhander past Anderson. Nearly seated on the ice afterward, Ovechkin spun around and kissed his glove, while fans responded with loud chants of ''M-V-P!'' Notes: It was Ovechkin's 600th NHL game. ... Ottawa will play at home against Philadelphia on Saturday, and at the Bruins on Sunday in a game rescheduled because of the Boston Marathon bombings. ... The Capitals finish the regular season Saturday against visiting Boston.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving ate the Celtics’ heart during the second half of Game 4

NFL to reportedly bring back fun touchdown celebrations

Mike Trout explains why he doesn’t look at advanced stats

Reds’ Joey Votto shuts down heckler with “I remember when you used to be thin”

Rob Gronkowski gets new contract, chance to double salary

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Padres offering $99 ticket plan for five June wins or 16 June games – whatever happens first

Former Jets WR Devin Smith found out he was cut via Twitter

Roger Goodell tweets ‘Key & Peele’ joke about relaxed celebration rules

Martavis Bryant: ‘I know this is my last chance’

Glennon: ‘This is my year and I’m not worried about the future’

Durant apologizes for response to fans complaining about blowouts

The 'Walk on home, boy' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Dejounte Murray gets his calls blocked twice

It's reality check time for the Texas Rangers

Box Score 5/23: Preds, Warriors move on to respective Finals

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

Getaway Day: League leaders falter allowing new teams to surge ahead

Best of Yardbarker: Gregg Popovich doesn't mince words

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Dejounte Murray gets his calls blocked twice

It's reality check time for the Texas Rangers

The 'Walk on home, boy' quiz

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

Getaway Day: League leaders falter allowing new teams to surge ahead

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker