CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Nick Paul scored twice in the first period, Matt Murray made 27 saves for his first victory of the season and the Ottawa Senators beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Thursday night.
Playing their first game since New Year’s Day and just their second in 26 days, the Senators didn’t look rusty, outshooting Calgary 34-28 to open a two-game Alberta trip.
Drake Batherson and Connor Brown also scored for Ottawa in a breakout game for Paul.
“He was all over the ice. He was dancing. So when the big boy is feeling it, you get him the puck,” Brown said.
Paul was moved to center with Tim Stützle in COVID-19 protocol and responded with his third career two-goal game and first since Dec. 30, 2019.
“Wherever I play I try to do my role, which is create space, win battles, take pucks to the net,” Paul said.
His line with Brown and Alex Formenton combined for six points.
“When you’re playing and making space, those types of players are the ones who find you and make things happen,” Paul said.
He had scored just once in his previous 19 games.
“He did a heck of a job,” Senators coach DJ Smith said. “He shot pucks. He was big. He was strong. He did everything you’d want a guy to come back and do and he was arguably our best player tonight.”
Matthew Tkachuk scored for Calgary, and Jacob Markstrom stopped 30 shots. The Flames have lost four in a row and are 2-7-1 in their last 10.
“The emotional level of our group has been lacking for a period of time now,” coach Darryl Sutter said.
“There has to be a lot more guys able to handle adversity. That’s a big challenge for this group,” he added. “It’s still so much of a process that it can be frustrating, but at the same time, we can dig in and play better.”
Tkachuk said the Flames are fortunate they got off to a fast start.
“It’s definitely not the way we want it to be right now. Thank God we had the start we did — it will keep us in it still,” Tkachuk said. “There’s no panic by any stretch, but we want to fix this.”
The Flames played at home for the first time since Dec. 11, following postponements caused by a COVID-19 outbreak and capacity restrictions. With restrictions still in place, the actual attendance was considerably less than the permitted half capacity with far more empty seats than fans.
“This is not a knock on goaltending or anyone, but when the other team scores a goal on the first shot, it’s never the way that you want to start a game,” Calgary forward Milan Lucic said.
NOTES: D Jacob Bernard-Docker, from nearby Okotoks, was activated from the taxi squad and was paired with Thomas Chabot. Among the family on hand to watch his ninth career game were Bernard-Docker’s parents, who watched him play an NHL game live for the first time. … Scott Sabourin’s first game for Ottawa since Nov, 14 lasted just over a period. He left with an injury after losing a one-sided fight against Lucic.