Senators fight to a 4-2 victory over Thrashers

Looking for a quick synopsis of the game after bot being able to watch any of it? Here it is: Brian Elliott was clutch. It might sound strange after the Ottawa Senators went up 2-0 less than two minutes into the game, but after that point the Atlanta Thrashers came hard and fast at the Senators. Before the period was out, the Thrashers had tied the game 2-2, but without Elliott, it would have been a different story.

As it was, Elliott stopped 10 of the 12 shots he faced in the first, and made 26 saves overall, and Ottawa won the game. With the impressive play Pascal Leclaire's put out so far, Ottawa's goaltending tandem looks--at first glance--stronger than it's ever been.

Goaltending can't win a game by itself, though. Ottawa's scorers appear to be starting to click on the season, with Alex Kovalev, Jarkko Ruutu, Mike Fisher, and Chris Neil all notching en route to the Sens' win. Throw in some team toughness as seasoning, and you've got yourself a great game, all in all.

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It all started well for the Senators. Kovalev scored his first goal of the season--a gimme, set up with a pass from Fisher--and Ruutu's fourth line added to that by the 2:25 mark of the first. But as impressive as that sounded, the two goals were more Sens-friendly bounces than actual dominance, and it didn't take too long for the Thrashers to get back in the game. As the period went on, Ilya Kovalchuk and Ron Hainsey scored to even it up--and it would have been worse, too, if not for Elliott.

After that first frame, Ottawa stepped it up, and even scored a powerplay goal (!) early in the second period. You could call it a garbage goal, but we've got to take any powerplay success we can get here, folks. In the third, Neil scored off a great pass from Nick Foligno, and that was the end of the scoring story. Foligno stepped up on the forecheck, forced the defending Thrasher to cough up the puck, and set Neil up for his first of the year.

Watching the game, though, there was something else to this team. Let's call it pride. Or confidence. It was something the team's been lacking for the last two seasons, but the tough play that followed was an indication of what Sens fans, hopefully, can expect for the rest of the season.

It started early, after a Thrasher gave Elliott a shot after he made a save. Jason Spezza was right in there, pushing the offender and a couple of other Atlanta players, away from the net. Spezza. Stepped up to defend his goalie quickly and without reservation, and was quickly followed by teammates like Matt Carkner. It was very impressive.

Later on, a sequence saw Anton Volchenkov lay out Zach Bogosian, and then Bogosian--rather impressively--got right back up and laid out Daniel Alfredsson in the neutral zone. Unlike in years past, the Senators weren't going to sit idly by while the captain got blindsided, and Chris Phillips jumped Bogosian without trepidation. He was assessed a two-minute penalty, which was well worth it for the statement it made.

Finally, Alex Picard showed some gumption standing up for himself in the third period. After taking a cheap shot from Todd White, who jumped elbow-first at the defenceman (I know, uncharacteristic, right?) Picard stepped right up at White and told him that wasn't acceptable. Picard had a good game, all in all, scoring two assists in just over 18 minutes of ice time.

Ottawa out-hit Atlanta 24-19. It was a strong game, and a strong message.

Quick hits: Matt Carkner almost scored his second goal in as many games, but he rang a rocket of a slapshot off the post in the first period. He also schooled Eric Boulton in a first-frame tussle, but I don't think Boulton was quite ready for it. ... Rookie forward Peter Regin left the game mid-way through the third, with what appeared to be a wrist or hand injury, but is only being classified as an upper-body injury. Not good for Regin, who had an assist and two hits in another strong game, but hopefully it's not as bad as it looked. ... A lot of people are saying Spezza is struggling, but he's only struggling to get points. He's playing a more rounded style than he's ever played before, and it's only a matter of time before he fleshes out that newfound responsibility with the points he'll inevitably score. ... Alfredsson had an assist on Kovalev's goal, and now has points in all four Sens games so far (2G, 2A). ... Ruutu, Neil, Carkner, and Shean Donovan all have a goal and an assist on the year now. How's that for scoring depth? ... It seems unfair that Phillips, Alfredsson and Fisher were all -1 on the night. ... Christoph Schubert was wearing number 16 for the Thrashers, and did so-so in his return to Ottawa. ... Also returning to the capital was former Senators captain Randy Cunneyworth, now an assistant coach with the Thrashers. ... I don't know what would be more frustrating, watching Maxim Afinogenov while cheering for his team, or while cheering for his opposition. The guy's got good speed and sweet moves, but can't actually get anything done. ... On top of the goal, Neil had a game-high six hits. I was critical of his signing, yes, but he's had a monster of a season so far this year. ... For those keeping track of the Milan Michalek breakaway watch, he only had a partial one tonight--and got hauled down in the process, setting up the Senators for their powerplay goal.

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