There were some tense moments in the third period, but the Ottawa Senators were able to come away with their first win of the season, a 3-2 result over the Carolina Hurricanes. Although the big line scored one (very) pretty goal, it was once again the role players who came through for Ottawa tonight: Mike Fisher and Chris Neil clicked when put on a line with Nick Foligno, and Fisher put up his first two goals of the season as a result.
More bad injury news, though. We probably shouldn't be surprised by it, even if we hoped for different, but Pascal Leclaire left the game just minutes in with a lower-body (presumably right-leg) injury. It was too bad for the Sens' best player so far, but Brian Elliott came in and played solid enough for the majority of the game, especially coming in cold to a game he had no expectation of playing in. But I guess Leclaire's backup always has to be ready to come in as an injury replacement.
Sens hero: Chris Neil
Neil's had a great season so far, and that didn't fade Thursday against the Canes. He was taken away from his usual linemates, but didn't let that slow him down; instead, he found some almost immediate chemistry with Fisher and Foligno. A couple hits on the night, and some typically irritating play, hopefully Neil can keep his game at this level, because it looks good on him.
Sens zero: Erik Karlsson
Tough game for the kid. Again. A few bad passes, some poor defensive coverage, and bad decision-making overall. The good news for the kid, though, is that we all know how well he can play, and there's no reason to think he won't get back to it in due time.
Sens hero: Mike Fisher
Definitely a heroic game for Fisher. His first goal was a complete fluke, admittedly, but you can bet Cam Ward felt every single one of the eight shots Fisher fired at him, and one managed to get past the Carolina goalie, and turned out to be the game-winner. He's had a good start to the year, and the two goals tonight get him started on his way to matching or surpassing a career-year last season.
Sens killer: Cam Ward
Anyone who didn't think Ward was a great goaltender (and I don't know why you wouldn't) needed only to watch him against the Senators to learn otherwise. He stopped 36 of 39 shots on the night, and if not for his play the game would likely have been far out of hand by the end of the first period.
Sens hero: Brian Lee
Yeah, you read that right: Hero. Credit where credit's due, Lee's done what he needed to do in order to prove himself an NHL-capable defender: He's simplified his game, concentrated on playing positionally, made simple passes instead of trying low-percentage ones, and when nothing was there, he just got the puck into a safe place. He didn't get a point on the play, but Lee was the reason Ottawa's breakout worked in the play that ultimately led to the Milan Michalek goal.
Sens killer: Eric Staal
Pretty much by sheer force of will, Staal got the Hurricanes back into the game, with a goal and assist on the night. No Senator could contain him once he'd decided to start playing well, and the Senators might not have been on the right side of the scoreboard had Staal started the game with the intensity he had by the time the buzzer sounded.
Good enough: Brian Elliott
Let's not kid ourselves, Elliott wasn't great tonight. He stopped 19 of 21 shots and made some pretty good saves, but was completely fooled by Staal's fake on the first goal that he was almost behind the net by the time Sergei Samsonov had the puck, and
Faceoff guru: Jason Spezza
The 'Canes aren't the same team on the dot as they were with Rod Brind`amour in the lineup, but 17-for-22 (77 per cent) is nothing to scoff at. Winning faceoffs was huge for the Senators tonight.
It's just one win, but it was a big one in releasing a fair amount of tension in Ottawa. But it was against a team that had just returned from a road trip to Europe; the Senators will have a good test against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, with two big points in the Northeast Division on the line.