That's more like it. The Ottawa Senators pretty much dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning in every aspect of the game, and it showed in the final score of 7-1. Leading the way was Milan Michalek, with two short-handed goals and a powerplay marker for his first-ever NHL hat trick, while Jarkko Ruutu had a goal and two helpers, Daniel Alfredsson had three assists and Chris Kelly, and Anton Volchenkov each had two assists.
Although Ottawa carried the play in most areas, nowhere was it more evident than when the Senators were short-handed. Obviously, two short-handed goals were telling, and the Senators held Tampa to five shots on six powerplay opportunities (including over a minute of 5-on-3 time) while getting seven shots of their own. The end result was a resounding statement of confidence when down a man.
The Senators impressed throughout the lineup, as well. All four lines put up points on the scoresheet (Alex Kovalev, Michalek, Nick Foligno, and Ruutu), and eleven different players had at least one point. Even without the puck, to a man the whole team made a physical statement from Jason Spezza and Volchenkov both catching rookie Victor Hedman with big hits, Matt Carkner annihilating Steve Downie in a third-period fight, or Chris Campoli credited with three hits on the night.
It wasn't a busy night for Pascal Leclaire--he only faced 17 shots on the night, none of the particularly difficult variety--but he was solid. He certainly looked better than Lightning counterpart Mike Smith, who started well but let in a few bad goals as the game went on and the Senators kept coming.
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There were some pretty set-ups on the night. Particularly impressive was when Alfredsson forced a turnover at the Lightning's blue line to set Kovalev up for the opening goal just minutes into the game, and his alley-oop pass too Michalek over the head of Martin St. Louis. Better than those, however, was probably Spezza's through-the-legs, no-look, cross-crease pass to Michalek for his third of the night and the Sens' second PP marker of the season. After some serious struggles to score in the first five games, it was great to see that offensive creativity come out in spades tonight.
Although Ottawa had one powerplay goal, they were still only 1-for-6, and only had five shots with the man advantage. It's still the most pressing area of concern for the Senators. The most pressing area for Sens' fans is offering up their hats for a home team hat trick. You can get them back, folks, just go to customer service! I resolve to throw my hat down next time I'm at a home game and a player turns the trick.
Talking about toughness, the Senators made a statement with three fights from three different individuals, each faring well in their respective battles. Chris Neil dropped them with Matt Walker, Chris Phillips took on Zenon Konopka, and, as said earlier, Carkner welcomed Downie to the Big Country in true Carktastic fashion. I make it no secret that I dislike Downie, but I have a feeling players around the league--and I'm certain former Senator Dean McAmmond--liked to see that kind of statement made.
Although Spezza had just the one assist, he had a strong game tonight. He was backchecking, forechecking, and truly looks like a he's become the well-rounded first-line centre this team has long been looking for. It certainly looks like Michalek is bringing out the best in Spezza, and although Jonathan Cheechoo will have a hard time keeping up with those two, he had a good game tonight (five shots on net, Michalek had nine) and looked like he fit in.
Another star on the night was Ruutu, to be sure. His pass to Michalek was a nice look, he dished the puck to Alex Picard for that defender's first goal of the season (against his former team, to boot), and the goal he scored was just a good follow-up adhering to what's got to be one of Cory Clouston's mantras: Drive to the net. Shean Donovan (who played to a quiet +1 tonight) lead the way in that, and now his fourth-line comrades are following suit.
Rookie Erik Karlsson made a statement tonight, just by playing solid defence. Made a tough pinch that led to the 2-on-1 that brought about Ryan Malone's goal, but he did some good, too: Had an assist, three shots on net, a couple of hits, and played pretty solid in his own end. It won't be the best game of his season, but it might be his most solid game so far.
Guess who led the Senators in ice time tonight. Alright, time's up: It was Alex Picard, with 24:24 played. Only
Picard and Chris Campoli (20:15) played more than 20 minutes. Now that's a balanced lineup.
It was an all-around statement game for the Senators: They won the game on both sides of the puck, and just plain outplayed their opposition. It's another win over another non-playoff team (at least from last season), though, so the Senators still have plenty to prove in games against more proven competition.
And here's your fight card (saved the best for last):
Neil versus Walker:
Phillips versus Konopka:
Carkner versus Downie:
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