The last time Ottawa faced the Colorado Avalanche, it was coming off a COVID-19 pause and had not played a game in more than a week.
Now the Senators are back in a regular groove as they host Colorado on Saturday night for the final game between the teams this season.
Ottawa was idled for eight days by a COVID-19 outbreak in the locker room and its first game back was against the Avalanche on Nov. 22. Despite not playing for a while the Senators put up five goals and had a chance to win or at least earn a point until Colorado scored the go-ahead goal with 93 seconds left and won 7-5.
That was the second of six straight losses, a streak that ended with a 3-2 win at Carolina on Thursday night. The sixth loss was a tough one to swallow, a 6-2 home setback Wednesday against a struggling Vancouver team. But Ottawa bounced back impressively against a Hurricanes team that has gotten off to a strong start.
The result also showed the Senators are not giving up despite having an NHL-low five wins.
"I live it every day with these guys and the team didn't like being questioned on their compete level," coach D.J. Smith said after the win. "These guys play hard, they play through injuries. One thing they do is compete for each other and they didn't like being questioned and they showed it tonight."
A big reason for the victory was the play of goaltender Anton Forsberg, who stopped 47 shots to earn his first win since opening night. If he is in net Saturday night, it will be another tough test against an Avalanche team that can put plenty of shots on goal.
This is the third game of a five-game road trip for Colorado. It didn't start well, losing to Toronto 8-3, but the Avs bounced back to beat Montreal 4-1 on Thursday night. Colorado rallied around goaltender Jonas Johansson, who was pressed into action both nights with an injury to Darcy Kuemper.
Johansson is in line for his third start in four days, or coach Jared Bednar could choose to put Justus Annunen in net for his NHL debut. Annunen was recalled from the AHL's Colorado Eagles on Wednesday and served as the backup against the Canadiens.
Kuemper is still with the team and being evaluated daily.
"We're kind of just watching how the next few days play out and see if he's going to be able to bounce back from his injury in a hurry or not," Bednar said Thursday night. "But at this point, I don't have any new information."
The Avalanche will also be without Bo Byram, who recently missed six games with a head injury. He returned to play two games, scoring a goal against Nashville last Saturday night, but he was experiencing issues from that injury and was scratched from Thursday's game.
Colorado's Cale Makar continued his torrid scoring stretch with a goal in the win at Montreal. He has 10 goals, eight of them coming since Nov. 17.
--Field Level Media