It’s an exciting time for the Ottawa Senators and their fans right now.
After a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, the Senators (32-26-4) are three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (31-21-9) — who lost 4-1 earlier in night from the Florida Panthers — for the final wild card spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
“It gave me a little chills to be honest,” said Tim Stutzle, who scored two goals. “It was so loud and it was awesome. We’re playing great right now and we hope to continue.”
It was also a warm welcome for Jakob Chychrun, who was acquired from Arizona in a trade Wednesday to help stabilize Ottawa’s blue line. The 24-year-old had a goal and an assist on his home debut.
The fans were loud when Chychrun did his first shift and late in the third he appeared on the big screen and raised his hand, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
“It was fun,” Chychrun admitted. “I don’t know what made me do it, just the spur of the moment, but the crowd kept me going, so that’s the thing, I think it’s just the fun of it.
“He was really into it tonight, so it was a blast out there.”
Ottawa’s blue line led the way on the night as Travis Hamonic also scored a pair of goals and Cam Talbot made 18 saves.
WATCHES | Hamonic scores twice at home against Columbus:
Hamonic isn’t quite known for his attacking prowess, but there was no doubting his teammates’ happiness at his success.
“The boys definitely had fun with it,” Hamonic said. “It’s not every night you score a couple in a game, but I think the important thing is that we won.”
The Blue Jackets were coming off a 4-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken and never looked like they could keep up with the Senators.
Jack Roslovic and Patrick Lane scored for Columbus (20-37-6). Elvis Merzlikins was pulled after allowing four goals on 23 shots. Michael Hutchinson stopped 17 shots in relief.
“We talked about it before the game, that they were going to come hard, and I have no idea how we were even surprised how hard they were, especially in the beginning,” Laine said.
“And they kept coming at us the whole game. We were just sleeping, just sleeping for 60 minutes.”
Ottawa is riding a five-game winning streak, its first since March 2017, and was in control from start to finish tonight.
“We did a lot of really good things,” Senators coach DJ Smith said. “I thought we went five-on-five, held the puck a lot longer. They played last night, so they weren’t as sharp, but they worked until the end.”
The teams traded goals 18 seconds apart to open the scoring in the first.
Hamonic beat Merzlikins with a shot from the top of the faceoff circle, but Columbus tied it minutes later when Roslovic took advantage of a turnover along the boards and fired a wrist shot that beat Talbot.
Timmy made sure Jakob Chychrun got the first one #Sens point to it! 🚨#GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/CUeo1jh4TT
Ottawa took the lead on Stutzle’s 30th of the season, scoring from close range.
“It feels really good,” Stutzle said of hitting the milestone. “Especially my first two years I didn’t finish that well, so I feel really good and right now I’m really confident in the way I’m playing.
“But in the end the most important thing is to get as many wins as we can and it feels good if I can contribute to those wins.”
Ottawa extended its lead in the second to 4-2 and outscored Columbus 29-11.
Hamonic, playing in his 780th career game, scored his second of the night early in the second to record his first multi-goal game.
Chychrun then scored his first goal as a Senator by taking a pass from Erik Brannstrom and firing a wrist shot past Merzlikins, ending his night.
Welcome to Ottawa, Jakob Chychrun (@j_chychrun7)!! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/AioWDqKE3c
Hutchinson, acquired Thursday from Vegas, made his debut with the Blue Jackets.
Columbus managed to cut the lead in half on Laine’s power-play goal midway through the period, but there was no doubt they were better.
“You knew they were coming,” Columbus coach Brad Larsen said. “There was no secret. They’re excited to be playing right now. They’re in a playoff hunt.
“They’ve played a really good brand of hockey for a while. We knew pretty well what was coming, we just didn’t handle it very well.”
Patty’s 19th goal of the season and Marchy’s 2nd assist 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/xOfsgm32DY
The Senators play their next five on the road starting Tuesday in Chicago, while Columbus heads to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Tuesday night.