Joonas Korpisalo has a chance to salvage first season with Senators

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Who was that masked man?

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It’s a fair question to ask after goaltender Joonas Korpisalo played a key role in helping the Ottawa Senators steal the two points in a 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in front 19,344 fans on Sunday night at the Canadian Tire Centre.

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The 33-save effort by Korpisalo was the best performance we’ve seen from the 29-year-old goalie this season and the only hope now is he can deliver these efforts on a more consistent basis.

“That was fun,” Korpisalo said. “Battled the full 60 (minutes) with the boys and the way we battled, you want to make it count. And I think we did a great job.”

Getting a rare back-to-back start after making 20 stops in a 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at the Prudential Center, Korpisalo was the difference along with some timely goal scoring in the win over the Oilers.

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“When your goalie is playing that well, you have a chance to win every night,” said centre Tim Stutzle, who had a three-point night with a goal and two assists. “He was really on tonight.”

The decision by interim head coach Jacques Martin to start Korpisalo ahead of Anton Forsberg in the club’s second straight game in as many nights was a bit of a surprise.

It hasn’t happened often here in the past five seasons and Korpisalo hadn’t made back-to-back starts in three seasons. The belief was Forsberg was scheduled to make the start and Martin’s explanation wasn’t clear.

The determination on which one of the duo is going to play is made in consultation with goalie coach Justin Peters. It should be noted that Martin wasn’t asked in his pre-game availability with the media whether it was Korpisalo or Forsberg.

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“He played very well (Saturday) night and wasn’t overly busy,” Martin said. “We just felt that he was the guy to get the back-to-back. We didn’t think the other guy was at the right place right now.

“That’s why we made that decision.”

The reality is no matter how the choice was made, it was the right one.

“We’ve been on the other side of the ledger at times,” Martin said. “Just think of the game against St. Louis on Thursday where we had so many chances and couldn’t score.

“They’re a good team, they had their chances but our goalie shut the door and made some good saves. But we stayed with it. I thought we were persistent and we didn’t cheat the game, we battled hard.”

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Korpisalo has registered wins in four of his past five games. It’s a small sample size that started March 12 with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at home, but he has a 4-1-0 record in the stretch with a 2.93 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage.

In four games in March, Forsberg has a 1-3-0 record an .869 save-percentage and a 4.20 GAA. When Martin talks about the club thinking Forsberg wasn’t “at the right place right now,” that could easily be what he’s referring to because those numbers aren’t pretty.

Korpisalo’s numbers are closer to what the Senators expected when they signed him to a five-year, $20-million deal on July 1.

In 41 games this season, Korpisalo has a 17-21-0 record with a 3.33 GAA and a .888 save percentage. There has been chatter the Senators should buy him out at the end of the year, but that makes zero sense.

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A check of the calculator on says it will cost $10.6 million to buy out the $16 million in cash remaining on Korpisalo’s deal after this season. The bigger hit is the fact the buyout is spread over eight years and that’s a long time to carry that kind of money.

Not only is that a lot to pay a guy not to play, it would also mean the organization will carry a cap hit of approximately $1.3 million for the next eight years. Owner Michael Andlauer is passionate about winning, but he became a billionaire because he has made smart business decisions.

One thing we know about Steve Staios, the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager, is that he takes a calm, measured approach. He and Andlauer are cut from the same cloth, so you have to think the last thing they want to do is pay Korpisalo not to play.

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The Senators were able to win the game against the Oilers because they were getting the saves.

“(Strong goaltending) is huge for sure,” said defenceman Jakob Chychrun, who also had a three-point effort and scored the winner with 3:03 left in the third on the power play. “They had unbelievable looks (Sunday) and it could have been a different outcome for sure.

“Korpi played unbelievable, he played well in New Jersey as well and it goes a long way. It keeps us in the game and we were able to find a way so that was big.”

A turn around in the club’s net has to start somewhere and, even if it’s too late for the Senators to make the playoffs this spring, it’s certainly better late than never.

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