Winless Wild searching for breakthrough vs. Senators

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The Ottawa Senators are riding the momentum of a big win as they head into a matinee affair with the Western Conference’s Minnesota Wild on Monday.

Owners now of a lone win in its first four contests, at least the Canadian capital city’s side can claim that its single victory was a noteworthy one as it prepares to host the Wild.

On Saturday, newcomer Vladislav Namestnikov broke a 2-2 tie in the third period with the winning tally with 3:03 left in regulation.

Then the center added an empty-net marker with 22 seconds left as Ottawa earned its first win of the season in a 4-2 victory over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.

The win was a special one for Namestnikov, a 26-year-old former first-round draft pick of the Lightning. Tampa Bay selected the Russian forward with the 27th pick overall in St. Paul, Minn., at the 2011 draft hosted by the Wild.

Ottawa acquired Namestnikov from the New York Rangers one week ago in exchange for defenseman Nick Ebert and a fourth-round selection in the 2021 draft.

While Namestnikov didn’t register a point in his two games with the Rangers in the season’s first week, he made his mark immediately with an assist in his Senators debut.

Then he added the three-point Saturday night outing against the club that drafted him, scoring his first goal by finishing a 2-on-1 break by tapping in a pass from Connor Brown.

“You’ve got to go out and play your game, not think about who’s out there. I think that’s what we did today. We limited their chances and got rewarded,” said Namestnikov, whose efforts helped rookie coach D.J. Smith notch his first NHL win.

As bad as Ottawa thinks its start was, the winless Wild can tell the Senators that their current situation could be worse.

Minnesota is off to a brutal 0-4-0 start and is currently saddled with the burden of being the league’s only club that has failed to register a point.

New Jersey and Chicago also haven’t won yet but have garnered points. The Devils have been defeated twice in shootouts while the Blackhawks lost in overtime on Saturday.

Defense has been the glaring weakness for fourth-year coach Bruce Boudreau’s usually defensive-minded Wild, who have given up at least four goals in each of the first four contests.

Minnesota’s opponents have outscored the Central Division club 21-10.

Goaltender Devan Dubnyk said he and his teammates are tired of the talk of playing good games and doing positive things and still losing.

“We’ve got lots of positives with the game,” Dubnyk told The Athletic after Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Winnipeg. “I think enough is enough on the positives. We certainly have to keep doing what we’re doing that way, but we just got to start finding ways to win hockey games however that may be.”

Brad Hunt leads Minnesota with two goals and four points, but key contributors Eric Staal (minus-8), Zach Parise (-7), Jared Spurgeon (-7), Mats Zuccarello (-6) and Luke Kunin (-6) are mired in slumps.

–Field Level Media

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