Wild blanked by Lehner, Senators

ST. PAUL - After a rough start to the season, the Ottawa Senators have battled back into playoff contention, thanks in large part to emerging young talent.

Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker
Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker (16) protects the puck from Ottawa Senators forward Milan Michalek during the first period Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. USA Today Sports

ST. PAUL - After a rough start to the season, the Ottawa Senators have battled back into playoff contention, thanks in large part to emerging young talent.

The latest youngster to make his presence felt for the Senators is backup goaltender Robin Lehner, who recorded his first shutout of the season with 27 saves for the streaking Senators in a 3-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Lehner, who started just once since Dec. 18 and was playing for the first time in 2014, got goal support from left winger Clark MacArthur, right winger Erik Condra and center Kyle Turris as the Senators (21-18-8) improved to 6-0-1 in their last seven games.

"I'm always scared to death to say we've accomplished anything until everything is said and done, but we're certainly finding our game, and how we need to play to be successful. We have the total group playing the way we need to play," said Senators coach Paul MacLean. "Young players can give you some headaches at the start but if you can be patient and get through the growing pains, the improvement can be quick and it can be radical."

Minnesota (25-19-5) has been playing great hockey on the road, where the Wild have won three in a row, but have now lost two straight in their home rink, despite 29 saves from goalie Darcy Kuemper on Tuesday.


"There's no excuse for that. Home's where you've got to take advantage," said Wild right wing Justin Fontaine. "We've been playing good on the road. We've got to bring it back here. We all know it. We all know we've got to be better, come when the puck drops and establish our structure and our team play."

The Senators recorded 12 of the game's first 13 shots on goal and took a 1-0 lead on a first-period power play. With Wild center Mikael Granlund serving a double minor for a high stick to Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson's face, MacArthur finished off a high-speed rush to the net, taking a cross-ice pass from Turris for a quick re-direct past Kuemper.

Wild coach Mike Yeo called referees Mike Hasenfratz and Chris Lee to the bench for a heated conversation where the coach claimed MacArthur was offside on the play, but the goal was allowed to stand.

"We said after the first period, 'Let's make that the story of the first period. Let's try not to make it the story of the game,' " Yeo said. "We weren't on our toes. We were getting beat to loose pucks to start the game, and we weren't moving our feet. We were hesitant. We need to be ready to start the next game better than that."

After a scoreless second period, the Wild were clearly the aggressors early in the final 20 minutes, and it cost them. Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella's slap-shot attempt from the blue line produced a broken stick, a turnover and a breakaway for Condra, who finished an end-to-end rush by poking the puck between Kuemper's knees.

Turris added a power-play goal with 2:22 left in the game, his third in as many games. The Senators captured seven of a possible eight points on their just-concluded four-game road trip.

"We knew that we were going to have to get on a run just to get back into the (playoff) picture, so now we can't let up," Turris said. "We need to keep going. There are five or six teams trying to get into that last spot."

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