Tim Stutzle’s OT winner for the Senators was exactly what he needed

Ottawa Senators centre Tim Stutzle

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It was like Santa arrived early for Tim Stutzle.

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You could sense the relief the Ottawa Senators’ top centre was feeling as he lifted his arms to celebrate his overtime winner in a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night at the Canadian Tire Centre.

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As the Senators enjoys the National Hockey League’s mandated three-day holiday break before facing the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena, Stutzle is hopeful his first goal in seven game will be enough to help him get on the right track.

It was only his second goal in 13 games, but this one couldn’t have come at a better time. It was the club’s first win since Dec. 12 and the first under interim coach Jacques Martin.

“I think I was fighting it a little bit” Stutzle said. “I had chances every game, but in the end, I’m learning I’ve just got to stick with it. I got frustrated there a couple times, but I’ve just got to stay with it.

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“I just thought I had to go five-hole (in OT). Every time I do that I score so I don’t know why I wasn’t doing it. I just had to go back to what I’m doing.”

Martin is confident that Stutzle will be an elite player in the NHL for a long time. After scoring 39 goals and 90 points last season, Stutzle has seven goals and 32 points in 29 games this year. Those numbers are nothing to be ashamed about, but Stutzle has missed so many good chances.

He just made the simple play Saturday night by sliding it through Pittsburgh goalie Alex Nedeljkovic’s five-hole to secure the win.

“Tim is a tremendous player and I think sometimes when you’re a young player and you’ve got really high expectations, it’s something where we’re trying to work with him to manage those emotions,” Martin said.

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“You want the players to play with a lot of emotion, but at the same time it’s to be controlled. During a game you’re going to have some highs and lows and sometimes you don’t control the result. A lot of times with young players they tend to measure their success with whether they’re getting points or not.”

Martin said it’s not just Stutzle, it’s all of the club’s young players that have to learn it’s not all about production.

“That’s important but for me it’s not the end-all,” Martin said. “When you look at our young players, they’re very talented offensively. Our task as coaches is to make them better at playing the 200-foot game.”

Martin pointed to the way former Detroit Red Wings’ captain Steve Yzerman was forced to adjust his game. Legendary coach Scotty Bowman told Yzerman that if he didn’t start playing both ends of the ice then he’d trade him to Ottawa for Alexei Yashin in 1995.

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Yzerman took the threat seriously and became a two-way player.

“When he got to Detroit he was having 130-point seasons but they weren’t winning Cups. Then Scotty Bowman came and got (Yzerman) to understand how you’ve got to round up your game. Then, they won championships and they won Cups,” Martin said.

“It’s a similar challenge here. I look at our young core, and our key guys, they’ve got skill but they’ve got to improve away from the puck. It’s much rewarded to win as a team than just getting points.”


Jakob Chychrun was excited to spend Christmas with his family in Ottawa this year.

He hasn’t been able to get back here because he was playing for the Arizona Coyotes and the break is only three days. Chychrun was pleased to be able to spend time with his family, friends and his grandfather, John, because they used to spend Christmas together all the time.

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“These are special (times) for sure,” Chychrun said following the club’s victory over the Penguins. “I’m really excited to have Christmas in Ottawa. It’s something I’ve done my whole life up until I was in Arizona. I’m excited to be with them and have some of our family traditions that we’ve had all growing up here.

“I’m really happy for my (Grandpa), he never missed a Christmas here his whole life until I was in Arizona and we were never able to make it. This is our first year back, and his first year back, so it’s going to be special.”

The plan was to go to church, have some homemade perogies and take the chance to relax.

“My grandpa will play the guitar, we’ll just hang out and relax,” Chychrun said. “It’s always been my favourite time of the year.”

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The Senators will have to make a couple of roster moves before facing the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night.

The club sent forwards Angus Crookshank and Jiri Smejkal back to their AHL affiliate in Belleville after the victory over the Penguins.

The expectation is both will be recalled. The Senators will reconvene for a morning skate Wednesday in Toronto after an early-morning flight.

As noted in this space, defenceman Thomas Chabot is closing in on a return. He has resumed skating and it’s possible he’ll play early in the New Year when the Senators are on a road swing through Western Canada.


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