Martin Gerber stops 24 shots as Ottawa blanks the Lightning 2-0

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OTTAWA - There have been nights this season when Martin Gerber deserved a better fate. He got just what he deserved on Saturday.

Gerber stopped 24 shots to register his first shutout of the season as the Ottawa Senators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0.

It was just the second victory of the year for the 34-year-old goalie, who lost the starting job to Alex Auld in October. Gerber has started just three times in the past 22 games, registering one win during that run despite stopping 80 of 83 shots he's faced.

"I try to use the ice time I can get and give myself a chance to go back in there and that's pretty much all I can control," said Gerber.

In Gerber's two previous starts, the Senators were 2-1 losers in Carolina on Nov. 7 and 2-0 losers in Chicago on Dec. 10 - and the Blackhawks scored an empty-net goal.

His teammates have taken notice.

"I think he's played really well and kept us in games when he's been in there," said forward Dany Heatley. "The last two nights he's played exceptionally well. The night he played in Chicago he deserved a better fate and tonight he made some big saves down the stretch for the win."

Alexander Picard and Daniel Alfredsson, into an empty net, scored for Ottawa (11-12-5).

The Lightning dropped to 7-15-8 but had bigger concerns than that after watching winger Martin St. Louis leave the game with a cut to his face. He was inadvertantly hit with linesman Derek Amell's skate in the final minute of the third period and was bleeding profusely while being escorted to the dressing room.

He needed eight stitches to close two cuts on his forehead.

"He got cut pretty hard on the eye," said Tampa coach Rick Tocchet. "They're stitching him up right now. Pretty good gash."

Mike Smith stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced in goal for Tampa, but that was about the only part of the game Tocchet was pleased with.

His team doesn't play again until Thursday and can expect some hard skates in the meantime.

"That was some bad hockey out there and if I was a fan I'd want to get my money back because that was terrible hockey," said Tocchet. "You can't blame the refs even though there were I don't know how many power plays, it was just garbage hockey.

"There will be a lot of practice time in the next four games. It's not about a system, it's about grit and wanting to win and we didn't want to win."

Ottawa snapped a three-game losing streak. They had scored just four goals during that stretch.

The Sens remain in last place in the Northeast Division.

"It's huge for us to come home and respond and have a pretty solid game," said forward Mike Fisher, who had an assist on the Alfredsson goal. "Obviously wins are huge for us right now. We have to build in that and keep going.

"We're worried about wins however we can get them."

The first period was scoreless and Gerber made sure of that as he robbed Paul Szczechura point blank with a glove save in the final minute of the period.

Picard got Ottawa on the board with a power play goal at 5:04 of the second period. He got the puck at the left point, took a few strides toward the net and fired a shot over Smith's shoulder. It came just moments after a two-man advantage had expired.

Dany Heatley - along with the 18,446 in attendance at Scotiabank Place - thought he scored to give the Senators a 2-0 lead with 4:11 to play in the third period, but Lightning defenceman Paul Ranger cleared the puck away just as it was about to completely clear the goal-line.

Alfredsson iced the game with an empty netter at 19:15 of the third period.

Notes: Heatley needs one point for 500 in his NHL career ... Antoine Vermette has no goals and just one point in his last 17 games ... The Lightning (68 goals) and Senators (66 goals) are ranked 29th and 30th respectively in the NHL in scoring this season ... Tampa forward Mark Recchi needs two points to reach 1,400 for his career.



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