Senators Andrej Meszaros (14) celebrates his goal with Mike Fisher. (CP/Jonathan Hayward)
Ever since coach and general manager Bryan Murray used that term to describe his floundering team's situation, the Senators have won three of their last four games, including Monday's 5-3 over the Minnesota Wild. Andrej Meszaros and Chris Kelly scored in a 68-second span early in the first period and Emery made a career-high 42 saves as the Senators built on a pair of confidence-boosting wins over the Buffalo Sabres in the past seven days.
"Right now, with the start we've had, it's been tough sledding (but) we've beaten Buffalo twice this week a we know we can compete with any team," said centre Mike Fisher, who had an assist and was one of 12 different players to record at least a point Monday. "We seem to be skating and hitting better. Ray played well and that was a key for the game."
With Emery providing reliable goaltending in his fourth straight start before a crowd of 18,094, Chris Neil and Peter Schaefer paced the attack with a goal and an assist apiece and Daniel Alfredsson also scored for the Senators (9-11-1).
"We put ourselves in a hole to start the year and now we're trying to get ourselves out," said Emery, who faced 37 shots over the final two periods as the Wild tried to fight back from a 3-0 first-period deficit.
Ottawa, which has now put together a win streak for just the second time in the season. The Senators won three straight games from Oct. 21-26.
"Maybe I'm feeding off their confidence and they're feeding off my confidence," said Emery. "We've got to keep that going."
Emery appeared to aggravate an injury to his catching hand while making a save, but remained in the game and said he won't miss any time.
Meanwhile, it was the fourth loss in the past five outings for the Wild (12-7-1), which has only two wins in its past eight games and three victories in 10.
Pascal Dupuis had a power-play goal, Brian Rolston scored on a penalty shot and Mikko Koivu added a short-handed goal for Minnesota, which received 28 saves from Manny Fernandez.
"They just came off a good win against Buffalo (on Saturday) and with Emery making stops like that, they're playing with a lot of confidence right now," Fernandez said of the Senators. "They're a team to be afraid of."
The Senators were boosted by the return of star defenceman Wade Redden, who was back in the lineup after missing eight of their past 11 games while recovering from a strained groin.
Ottawa got off to a quick start and Fernandez was forced into action early on, stopping Dany Heatley on a breakaway in the game's opening minutes - one of 17 shots by the Senators in the first period.
Meszaros snuck a shot from the point through traffic to make it 1-0 just past the five-minute mark and, at 6:12, Kelly scored on another breakaway attempt to double the lead.
Neil lifted a backhander from in close during a power play later in the period and the Senators led 3-0 after the first.
It was 4-0 in the second when the Wild went on the attack, directing 17 shots at Emery in the second and 20 more in the third.
Minnesota managed a power-play goal through Dupuis in the second and in the third, Fisher was called for covering the puck in the crease during a scramble in front of the Senators' net. Rolston beat Emery with a deke to cut the lead to 4-2.
However, Schaefer added a late power-play goal before Koivu made it 5-3 with a short-handed marker.
"The bottom line is we were sleeping when they dropped the puck and they get three up quick like that and we're fighting back all night. It was too little too late," Rolston said. "(Emery) was spot on tonight."
Notes: Ottawa's Jason Spezza appeared in his 200th NHL game. . . . With Minnesota tough guy Derek Boogaard out with a leg injury, the Senators scratched enforcer Brian McGrattan. a Ottawa plays its next four games on the road, starting Wednesday at Philadelphia. a Centre Todd White, an Ottawa native, returned for the first time since the Senators traded him to Minnesota during the
2005 NHL draft. a The Wild is in Montreal on Wednesday, returns home to play host to Phoenix on Friday and travels to Columbus on Saturday.