Sens aim for playoff spot in home test vs. Sharks

( – The Ottawa Senators have been riding high with Andrew
Hammond in net and the club hopes the “Hamburglar” can get them into a
playoff position with a seventh straight victory on Monday.

The Senators were hardly mentioned in the Eastern Conference playoff race
before Hammond burst onto the scene last month. Although he is too old to meet
the league’s rookie requirements, the 27-year-old had never even started an
NHL contest until Feb. 18.

Hammond’s amazing run late in the 2014-15 season has changed everything for
Ottawa, which enters Monday just one behind idle Boston for the last wild card
spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins, who have played two more games
than the Senators, lost their fifth straight game Sunday in Tampa.

Hammond has started 15 of Ottawa’s last 16 games and the only time he didn’t
start during that stretch was on March 10, when the Sens lost a 3-1 decision
to visiting Boston with Craig Anderson between the pipes. That setback stands
as Ottawa’s lone regulation loss over the last 16 games.

The Bowling Green product is 13-0-1 on the season with a 1.65 goals against
average and .947 save percentage and has won his last seven decisions.

Sens head coach Dave Cameron has given Hammond the start in all six games
since the setback to the Bruins on March 10 and Ottawa has won every one to
give the franchise its first six-game run since Oct. 20-30, 2011. The Senators
haven’t posted seven straight victories since a franchise-record 11-game
winning streak from Jan. 14-Feb.4, 2010.

After Hammond helped the Sens pick up a huge 6-4 win over the visiting Bruins
on Thursday, he made 22 saves Saturday in the second test of a four-game
homestand, which resulted in a 5-3 victory over Toronto.

It was the third straight home win for Ottawa, which improved to 19-11-5 as
the host. The Sens will close this stay at Canadian Tire Centre in Thursday’s
game against the New York Rangers.

Kyle Turris finished with two goals, including the game-winner on the power
play late in the second period, to power the Senators past the Maple Leafs. It
was the second straight two-goal game for Turris, who has four markers and six
points over his last three games.

Erik Karlsson tallied a goal and an assist, while Curtis Lazar and Mike
Hoffman also scored for the Senators, who have won nine of their last 10 and
are 14-1-1 over their last 16 outings.

Ottawa coughed up a 3-1 lead in the second period, but Turris made it a 4-3
game with 52 seconds left in the middle stanza. He added an empty-net tally
for his 21st goal of the season in the final minute of regulation.

“Gutsy win,” Ottawa head coach Dave Cameron said. “We were really solid in the
third. It was a huge win.”

Hammond, meanwhile, became the fifth goaltender in NHL history to have 14
consecutive starts without a regulation loss to start a career.

While the Sens are trying to will their way into the playoffs with a
sensational run, San Jose is fading in the Western Conference postseason race.

The Sharks, who haven’t missed the playoff since the spring of 2003, have
dropped three of their last four tests and the club is six points behind
Calgary for the third playoff berth from the Pacific Division. San Jose
only has 10 games left in the regular season and also trails Winnipeg by eight
points for the last wild card spot in the West.

San Jose has lost two of three at the start of a crucial seven-game road trip
and is coming off Saturday’s 2-0 setback in Montreal. The Sharks were the
victims of Carey Price’s ninth shutout of the season as the Canadiens
goaltender stifled San Jose’s offense with a 29-save performance.

Antti Niemi stopped 27 shots for the Sharks, who fell to 18-13-3 as the guest.

“I felt that we were going to get it,” Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. “It
felt like we were going to get it all night … Price played good.”

Ottawa has lost seven of its last nine meetings versus the Sharks, but the
clubs have split the last four encounters. San Jose has claimed four straight
and five of its last seven in Canada’s capital city.