So much for rust.
Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean was asked several times over the weekend how his team would respond to a four-day break between games, to which he responded: “We’ll see.”
It didn’t take the Senators long to provide a crystal-clear answer.
They scored twice to chase New York Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin just 1:35 into the game Monday en route to a 6-0 victory — their third win in a row.
Defenceman Erik Karlsson led the way with two goals and two assists for the Senators, while Jason Spezza chipped in with two tallies of his own. Chris Phillips (on the power play) and Brian Lee also found the back of the net in the afternoon rout.
It wasn’t the way a surprisingly large Presidents Day crowd of 15,818 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum envisioned things working out, but MacLean certainly enjoyed the outing,
“I thought our team was really ready to play,” he said. “Obviously, scoring in the first minute or the first 90 seconds, getting two goals was good. It was a good sign of our preparation and our willingness to come here and compete today against a team that we knew was going to be able to skate real well.”
Considering how badly the Senators stumbled out of January’s all-star break and how well they played in wins last Tuesday and Wednesday, some worried a lengthy layoff (including two days with no skating at all) might hurt Ottawa’s performance.
Those concerns proved to be unfounded.
Erik Karlsson said getting off to a good start was the Senators’ main goal heading in.
“We’ve had some days off, the coach has been nice to us in giving us some complete days off, and we wanted to show him that we want more of those.”
With his four-point afternoon, Karlsson pulled to within six points of Norm Maciver’s franchise record of 63 by a defenceman.
Al Montoya stopped swept up after Poulin’s exit, allowing four goals on 27 shots, while Craig Anderson was solid again in Ottawa’s net. He turned aside 28 shots for his third shutout of the season.
“I think we did a great job cleaning up rebounds when they were left around,” Anderson said. “Keeping (the Islanders) to the outside, allowing me to see the puck – that’s huge. When a goalie can see the puck, he’s going to stop it more times than not.”
Karlsson started things off just 1:08 in, when he beat Poulin with a shot from behind the goal-line that bounced off the goalie and into the net. Seconds later, Spezza walked into the slot and wired a wrister that chased the young keeper, who was standing in for flu-ridden No. 1 Evgeni Nabokov.
The Islanders’ did have a chance to staunch the bleeding late in the first, when Michael Grabner hopped on a turnover and skated in on a partial breakaway. A hard-charging Milan Michalek caught up, however, and managed to pester him just enough to prevent a decent shot.
The play turned back up the ice, where Karlsson one-timed his second goal of the game and let the air out of the building for good.
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WHY THEY WON: The Senators had a 2-0 lead before the Islanders knew what hit them and didn’t let off the gas. If New York wasn’t ready to enter sell mode ahead of the NHL trade deadline, this game was more evidence it should be.
STUD: Erik Karlsson, Senators. His owner went on the radio Monday and said he had to the potential to be “one of the great defencemen of all time.” Jury’s still out on that one, but Karlsson did turn in a spectacular performance.
DUD: Kevin Poulin. When a goalie lasts just 1:35 in a game, there are two common explanations. A) He was injured. B) He had a terrible game. Kevin Poulin was not injured in this contest.
PARENTEAU SUPERVISION: The Islanders’ frustrations really boiled over after Brian Lee made it 5-0 midway through the third period. P.A. Parenteau felt he’d been interfered with earlier in the play, but the officials disagreed. The goal against pushed him over the edge, and his hissy fit earned him an immediate game misconduct.