It was just the New York Islanders. But it was still nice to see the Senators dominate a team and seemingly score goals at will, at least in the second period. It was a little bit like old times.
The first period was a snoozer, with little in the way of actual scoring chances. In the second, Chris Neil put a trickler past Islanders goaltender Yann Danis, and Filip Kuba, Mike Fisher, and Dany Heatley followed up to give the Sens a 4-0 win after 40 minutes. Josh Bailey scored his first of two to break Brian Elliott's shutout, then Nick Foligno gave Ottawa the 5-1 lead until Bailey scored again to round out the scoring. It was a 5-2 final in favour of the Senators.
Neil celebrated his 500th career NHL game with a goal for the Sens, and had a good chance to score another one. He had a couple hits, and also set linemate Jarkko Ruutu up for a pretty good scoring chance. I still have to wonder if Sens' GM Bryan Murray hasn't already made his decision on whether Neil has a place on this team next season.
Ottawa was led by Daniel Alfredsson offensively, as the captain racked up three assists to give him 71P (23G, 48A) in 69GP this season. He was +2 and had a couple of shots, and was big for the Sens' penalty kill, as well. Foligno had a two-point effort (1G, 1A) and Brendan Bell put up two assists.
You can tell Bell really wants a deal for next season. With his two assists tonight, he's got six points (2G, 4A) in his last three games. He was +3 on the night, and Cory Clouston seems perfectly comfortable playing him: Bell had 22:15 in ice time, second only to Kuba in ice time for Ottawa.
Jason Spezza had an assist, as well, and his dominance in the faceoff circle continued against the Isles: Spezza was 12/17, or 71% on the night. You may also have noticed a bit more defensive awareness, as when Spezza was out on the ice in th last minute, he turned away from a possible scoring chance to protect the puck and ensure the Sens killed the clock. After last game, a one-goal affair in which Spezza tried to deke out of his own zone and lost the puck to risk the game, it was an improvement in awareness. Now, if he just starts taking chances in three-goal game and stops taking them in one-goal games, that would be even more impressive.
In nets, Elliott had a solid game. Didn't have a chance on Bailey's second goal, a rocket through weak defensive coverage that went top-corner glove-side, and stopped 20 of 22 shots overall. He's now won eight consecutive, extending his Senators rookie record winning streak.
I was nervous at the start of the game, when the Neil-Ruutu-Chris Kelly line was up against a very speedy Islanders line of Dean McAmmond, Dick Park, and Tim Jackman. D-Mac won the draw and the Islanders got a chance out of it, but Clouston stuck with that line combo for the most part, and they had an impact in the game, on the scoresheet and off of it.
There was one fight on the night, after Islanders rookie Joel Reichlicz took a run at Sens defenceman Chris Phillips. Anyone who thinks that the fight was symptomatic of the "No-Hits League" should take a look at the rest of Reichlicz' play on the night. He'd been running around all game looking for someone to fight, and he threw a few hits (although was only credited with one) in his 6:27 of ice time. He was head-hunting to wake his team up, and, after his hit on Phillips--and his jawing at Phillips afterwards--Fisher was finally sick of it, and dropped the mitts with Rechlicz. It was a pretty even bout, but I had to wonder if it was a fair trade-off--especially when Reichlicz had challenged Neil, the Sens' designated fighter, in the first period, and Neil declined. Even if he was playing on the edge, you've got to give Reichlicz credit for going after fighters (Neil, Ruutu) or bigger players on the team (Phillips, Fisher).
(Take the jump to see game highlights and video of the Fisher-Reichlicz fight.)