It was a game lacking in structure, but certainly not in excitement, especially since the Ottawa Senators came out on the winning side of a 5-2 score against the Atlanta Thrashers. And although the Thrash were the sloppier of the two teams--I'm sure their successful pass percentage would have been somewhere in the 30s--Ottawa did give them a run for their money. Even at a 5-2 score, Tuesday's game was closer than it had to be, and the Thrashers outshot Ottawa 37-29 because of it.
Still, Ottawa dominated much of the play for large stretches in the first two periods. A strong forecheck caused all sorts of turnovers and intercepted passes, and it was especially impressive seeing Jason Spezza, Alex Kovalev, and Peter Regin hem the Thrashers in their zone for long periods. And the powerplay... wow. Ottawa's powerplay was right on tonight, and even if Ottawa didn't score within three seconds of taking the man-advantage (Sergei Gonchar, by the way, scored only three seconds into the Sens' second powerplay), they were controlling the play and keeping the puck away from the Thrashers penalty killers.
Sens Hero: Jason Spezza
Ottawa's top-line centre continued his insane post-injury scoring, netting two goals and an assist tonight to give him seven points (3G, 4A) in the five games since he returned. He's picked up his play a lot, and he looks to be really having a good time playing with Alex Kovalev and Peter Regin. He's now at 12P in 10GP on the season.
Sens Hero: Brian Elliott
Elliott really shouldn't have had to be as heroic as he was tonight. But he was, and on the plus side, it will help his stats a little bit. He stopped 35 of 37 shots on the night, some of the difficult variety. He made some good glove saves--his specialty--but most importantly, Elliott controlled rebounds fairly well for the most part. In fact, his toughest save might have been a great reactionary stop after Jesse Winchester bounced a pass attempt off Chris Campoli's skate and right on net. All in all, another good game for Elliott, who's now 8-4 on the season.
Sens Hero: David Hale
I'm really just giving him this because it's obvious David Hale has world-class playmaking skills that have been completely ignored for most of his career. That pass to Spezza for Ottawa's first goal was a thing of beauty. Also, he finished +2 and played 18:35 tonight--more than Matt Carkner and Chris Campoli.
No points, but point made: Alex Kovalev
Maybe Kovy didn't get any points tonight, but he did continue his strong play. Some great dangles for the most part, and he had a game-high six shots on net, but couldn't get anything past Chris Mason. And don't forget his strength; At one point mid-way through the second, Jim Slater tried to hit him but bounced right off and Kovalev skated away like nothing had happened. It was comedic.
Missing in Action: Milan Michalek
Obviously trying to get back into things tonight. Very obviously. Michalek was only out four games, but he looked like a guy playing his first game in a long time Tuesday night; he was obviously hesitant and protective of his knee throughout the night, which went a long way to limiting the effectiveness of his line with Mike Fisher (who is himself in the midst of a terrible cold spell) and Daniel Alfredsson (who, after 12P in the first 10GP, now has 2P in his last 5GP). Michalek's not really a finesse player; he's a crash-and-bang type of guy who's only effective when he drives to the net with reckless abandon. He didn't play anywhere near that style tonight.
Reduced role, increased payoff: Nick Foligno
He may have been bumped down to the fourth line with Michalek's return, but Foligno played with more jazz tonight. Jesse Winchester's first goal of the season was a Zack Smith-esque lunchpail goal, but the whole play was made by Foligno's charge to the net and shot. He looked better tonight, maybe because there are less expectations in a lower role (or maybe because he was playing against lesser opponents).
Polymath: Daniel Alfredsson
The guy took a faceoff while short-handed tonight. And, naturally, he won it. My girlfriend suggested it was because he gets so much experience when he takes the ceremonial faceoffs, but whatever it is, he's outstanding.
The Chris Connection: Ottawa's third goal
Chris Neil scores, assisted by Chris Phillips and Chris Kelly. Chris Campoli, however, was not on the ice.
Dr. Heckle and Mr. Chide: Fun in the stands
Saw some strange jerseys at the game tonight, none stranger than the Columbus Blue Jackets Rick Nash jersey. But the Bryan McCabe and Phil Kessel jerseys were also out of place, and Kessel Fan took a lot of grief from the 300 level. A lot of very merciless grief. As he should have.