Senators battle the Bolts to the finish in 3-2 shootout win

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Better late than never.

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The Ottawa Senators have been reduced to playing for pride and they served notice Thursday night they won’t let this season go down without a fight in a 3-2 shootout win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

Brady Tkachuk fired home the shootout winner and also scored in regulation to seal the victory to close this night with a victory.

Drake Batherson tied the game up in the third as the Senators took three of four games against the Bolts this year.

“It was a pretty tight game. I’m glad we got it done in the shootout,” Batherson told TSN 1200’s Gord Wilson. “We’re focused on finishing the season strong.”

The Senators will face the Montreal Canadiens in the club’s final home game Saturday night at the Canadian Tire Centre with only three games left before the season wraps up Tuesday night in Boston.

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The decision to start backup Anton Forsberg was a bit of a surprise. He came into this game with a 2-3-0 lifetime record against the Bolts with a 3.10 goals-against average and an .895 save-percentage.

But interim coach Jacques Martin noted before the game the last time Forsberg faced Tampa he had a strong outing. He made 23 stops in the club’s 4-2 victory over the Bolts on Feb. 19.

“When Jacques said I was going it was kind of like, ‘What did you say?,’” Tkachuk said.

Had it not been for Forsberg, the Senators wouldn’t have been in this one through 40 minutes. They weren’t doing a whole lot in front of him and he had to make some big stops.

“I thought we battled hard, we got back into the game and we stuck with it,” Forsberg said.

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This was Tampa backup Matt Tomkins first start at home for the Lightning and only his fifth start of the year.

Batherson’s 28th of the season tied it up 2-2 at 2:11 of the second. He made a good second effort to corral a loose puck in the crease and then push it by Tomkins on the glove side.

That goal allowed Batherson to reach a career-high in points with 63 this season.

That was just moments after the Senators let a golden opportunity slip away.

The Senators started the third period with a two-man advantage for a span of 64 seconds. It was a pivotal moment in this game and the Senators hadn’t scored on the seven 5-on-3 power play opportunities they’ve had this year.

The club registered three shots, but they really didn’t test Tomkins enough, but that’s been the story of this team all season. Why would it change now? The power play is a big reason why this team won’t make the playoffs.

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The biggest challenge in this one was trying to shut down Tampa winger Nikita Kucherov. He had two assists in the first period alone against Ottawa and was only two points from 100 helpers this season. A candidate for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, Kucherov came into this game with 43 goals and 139 points … The Senators were trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes and weren’t creating a lot in the way of chances and only had 12 shots. The club had three minutes of power-play time and they had to do a better job getting to the net … Shorthanded in the second, Ridly Greig and Mathieu Joseph completely botched a 2-on-0 in front of the Tampa net. They tried to get fancy and neither of them got a shot off. It was ridiculous. Just shoot the puck … The Senators did a good job dodging a bullet early in the second. The Bolts had a 5-on-3 for a span of one minute and two seconds, but Forsberg made some great stops to keep Tampa off the board. The Lightning has the best power play in the league and the Senators were able to hold on their 2-1 lead. Forsberg made five stops while the club was shorthanded. “He made some big saves tonight,” Martin said … A guy who deserves credit down the stretch: Defenceman Erik Brannstrom. He’s been solid of late. A restricted free agent in the off-season, he likely won’t be back with Ottawa, but is good enough to play in the league and should be elsewhere.

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The Bolts pulled out to a 2-1 lead 12:56 of the first with their second goal on only six shots. Brayden Point scored his 45th of the year by beating Forsberg with a backhander … Exactly one minute after the Senators took the lead, Tampa’s Connor Sheary tied it up 1-1 with 10:15 left in the first. He took a pass from Kucherov and beat Forsberg with a backhander from the slot … Tkachuk took a three-zone pass from defenceman Jakob Chychrun to open the scoring at 8:45 of the first. Tkachuk stopped the puck with his glove and then fired it home for No. 35 of the season. That’s the second 35-goal season of Tkachuk’s career. “It’s nice, but I had bigger and better goals that haven’t been accomplished and won’t be accomplished,” Tkachuk told TSN’s Gord Miller … The Senators were 3-7-0 in their last 10 games in Tampa coming into this one … Former Ottawa winger Anthony Duclair was a late scratch with an illness.

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