Already eliminated from the playoff race, the Ottawa Senators are still playing to win games.
Erik Karlsson scored the winner in the shootout to lift Ottawa to a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. Mike Hoffman scored in regulation for the Senators and Robin Lehner stopped 38 shots to win his third straight game.
"That's why we play this sport, it's to win games," Karlsson said. "Even though we haven't done it on a regular basis this year like we wanted to that's what we're going to keep playing for no matter where we are in the standings and it feels good to put a couple together."
Karlsson is now 1-2 in shootouts this season and said he enjoys the challenge of scoring under pressure.
"It's a fun thing to do," he said. "It feels like we've been pretty successful over the course of the year, but it's obviously always nice to score."
The Devils, though, could only cringe as they watched Karlsson get the winner as they dropped to 0-12 in shootouts this season.
New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider was visibly disgusted by yet another shootout loss.
"Take one of our quotes from any point this year and apply it to tonight," said Schneider, who stopped 31 shots through overtime. "It's the same result."
Jaromir Jagr was also puzzled by the Devils' fate.
"It's frustrating, no question about it," the veteran said. "(The shootout) probably cost us the playoffs, but you've got no other choice but to work on it."
Michael Ryder scored his 18th of the season for the Devils.
The Senators had a power play for the final 35 seconds of overtime, but couldn't take advantage.
The Devils had a great chance on a 3-on-1 earlier in the extra period, but Lehner stopped Jagr and at the other end Schneider robbed Chris Phillips from in close. By the end of overtime Jagr had been stopped three times, including on a breakaway.
Lehner felt good about his game, especially the stops he made on Jagr.
"He's a great player so it's fun to see him come down the ice," Lehner said. "You want to stop him."
The game lacked any intensity for the first 30 minutes and looked like two teams who missed the playoffs just playing out the season.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer admitted his team was flat the first 10 minutes and attributed it to the players still dealing with the reality of not making the playoffs. New Jersey was officially eliminated Wednesday night.
"You could see we were a little bit out of it," DeBoer said. "There was a little bit of a hangover, but I thought once we started getting into the game and started to move and we carried the play. We should have had more than one goal."
The first excitement for the announced crowd of 19,270 at Canadian Tire Place came midway through the second when Ales Hemsky was awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down by Marek Zidlicky.
Hemsky made little of the opportunity as he shot wide of the net.
"We were a little sloppy early on, but I thought after that we woke up and generated chances and played our game," Schneider said. "A little more up and down than we would have liked, but at least it was an entertaining game."
The play did, however, seem to inspire the Senators as they scored a minute later when Mika Zibanejad made a pass back to a trailing Hoffman.
Zibanejad played just two shifts in the third period before leaving the game. He was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons. The Senators gave no details on the nature of his injury.
The Devils tied it at the 17-minute mark of the period as the Senators were unable to clear a rebound and Tim Sestito found Ryder through traffic.
A scoreless first period saw Ottawa's Mark Stone miss on a great opportunity and Clarke MacArthur being robbed point blank. The Devils didn't register their first shot until the eight-minute mark.
NOTES: C Colin Greening returned to the Senators' lineup after missing the last six games with a lower-body injury. ... The Senators were without D Jared Cowen (lower body, day-to-day) and RW Bobby Ryan (sports hernia, out for season). LW Matt Kassian and C Jean-Gabriel Pageau were healthy scratches. ... Devils LW Patrik Elias returned after missing the last two games. ... The Devils were without C Adam Henrique (undisclosed, day-to-day), C Jacob Josefson (lower body, day-to-day), LW Ryan Clowe (head, day-to-day) and D Bryce Salvador (lower body, day-to-day). D Peter Harrold and D Eric Gelinas were healthy scratches.