On Feb. 18, Andrew Hammond won his first start for the Ottawa Senators, which was also his first start in the NHL. At the time, the Senators were an also-ran: 56 points on the season, trailing the Boston Bruins by nine points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Then Hammond won again. And again. And again. Then a few times more. On Monday night, Hammond won his 14th game in 16 appearances (14-0-1), as the Senators leapfrogged the Bruins into sole possession of the second wild card in a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Hammond was strong again, making 29 saves on 31 shots. He was shaken up in the third period in a collision with Logan Couture, but remained in the game.
It was in the third where the Sens put it away: Mika Zibanejad scored his second of the night to tie the game at 2-2; just under 10 minutes later, Alex Chiasson tipped home a Mark Stone shot for the 3-2 lead, sending the home crowd into hysterics. Then Jean-Gabriel Pageau completed a 3-on-1 break for the 4-2 lead just 1:12 later.
Rookie Mike Hoffman’s 26th of the season entered an empty net at 18:37 to ice it.
The Senators now have 85 points in 72 games. The Bruins have 84 in 73. The Florida Panthers, still dangerous, have 80 points in 72 games.
Neither of them – nor anyone else in the East – is as hot as the Senators right now, who won their seventh straight game. There’s no guarantee the magic won’t still wear off, or that Hammond giving up nine goals in his last three games isn’t a harbinger that he’s coming back down to mortality.
But for now, the Ottawa Senators own a playoff seed, and control their own fate. Which is reason for a moment of celebration in Ottawa.
Gee, wonder how they’ll choose to?
Flying hamburgers it is …