COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In a game in which both teams badly needed a victory to stay in the playoff picture, Jason Spezza did what captains do.
"It was a tie game and we got a faceoff play and then a little bit of puck luck in front of the net," Spezza said. "Johnny on the spot."
After Nathan Horton went off for tripping at 13:08, the Senators took advantage late in the power play.
Colin Greening's pass through the crease was deflected by Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin, with Spezza closest to the loose puck. His first shot was blocked by Tyutin, but he took another whack at it and got it past McElhinney for the tiebreaker.
Spezza, named captain in September, is having a solid if unspectacular season. He also picked up his 23rd assist to go with his 14th goal. But he came into the game with a minus-21 plus/minus rating.
"No doubt I've had much better years in the past," he said. "But there's a lot of hockey left, and I have a lot to give."
Craig Anderson had 34 saves for the Senators, who had lost two in a row and four of five but picked up a critical victory against another team they're battling for contention in the Eastern Conference.
"You've just got to be patient," Anderson said while improving to 17-10-7 on the year. "That's the key to any position, especially goalie. You start chasing [the puck], they can make you look silly or foolish. Patience is a virtue."
Down a goal headed into the third period, the Blue Jackets tied it on a power play.
Anderson turned away one hard shot by James Wisniewski from the top of the right circle, but moments later the Columbus defenseman got another chance and this time he found the net. Matt Calvert helped set it up with a screen that completely blocked Anderson's vision. The goal was Wisniewski's fifth of the year and came at the 7:16 mark.
But that just set up Spezza's big goal.
Anderson made several clutch saves in the waning moments after the Blue Jackets pulled their goalie for an extra attacker.
Up 1-0 after the opening period, the Senators made it 2-0 at the 6:24 mark of the second -- and again it was Da Costa getting the goal.
Spezza corraled a loose puck along the back wall and waited patiently before feeding Da Costa for his second of the night and second of the season.
"It's real good to see him score," coach Paul MacLean said. "He was a good player for us tonight. Since he's come up, he's been good."
Calvert carried the puck around the back of the goal and fed it to the point, eventually getting it back at the right doorstep. He slipped a blind, between-his-legs and backward pass to Atkinson, who had an empty net for his 16th at the 12-minute mark.
Ottawa's Milan Michalek split two defenders in the high slot but lost the puck, with Da Costa trailing the play. He jabbed at the puck and got it through heavy traffic at the 8:06 mark of the first period.
"The first one was just lying there on the power play so I kind of jumped on it," said Da Costa, playing only his eighth game with the Senators this season. "The second one was a real good pass from Spez to the backdoor and I just tapped it in."
The Blue Jackets, playing their third game in four nights and second of a back-to-back, looked tired and sluggish most of the evening.
"It took a long time [to get everyone skating] and some guys still aren't going," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "To me, that's it right there. We're a good team when we have 18 skaters going and we were missing too many tonight."
Columbus LW Blake Comeau saw his first action after missing nine games with a sprained medial-collateral ligament in his left knee. ... Ottawa improved to 12-9-5 on the road this year, better than the 11-11-5 the Senators are at home. ... Senators D Chris Phillips did not play after suffering a minor injury during Saturday's 6-3 loss at Carolina.