DETROIT — Once the red wave started, the Ottawa Senators could do little to stop the bleeding.
The masters in the Detroit Red Wings lineup took the students on the Senators roster — and a few veterans as well — to school in a 5-3 opening night victory at the sold out Joe Louis Arena.
As much as Senators coach Paul MacLean was hoping his team’s “youthful enthusiasm” would help set the tone against the far more experienced Red Wings, it was Detroit’s battle-proven stars who ended up teaching the lessons. And then some.
Don’t let the final score fool you. It wasn’t that close.
The game was effectively over by the time MacLean called a time out midway through the second period, with the Red Wings leading 4-0 on goals by Todd Bertuzzi, Niklas Lidstrom, Cory Emmerton and Jiri Hudler. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson was shell-shocked. So, too, were the defencemen in front of him.
The Senators knew it wouldn’t be easy to rebuild overnight, but they didn’t expect the house to cave in on opening night, either. They have a long road ahead to compete with an elite NHL squad like the Red Wings.
Ian White added to the carnage with a third period goal to make it 5-0, before the Senators made the score respectable with three late goals — two by Milan Michalek and one by Filip Kuba — against Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.
As ugly as it was, there’s not much time for recovery. The Senators are right back at it tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
The best that can be said for the Senators is that they kept pace with Red Wings in the scoreless opening 16 minutes. They were alive and breathing after the first period, down only 1-0 when Bertuzzi took advantage of a terrible defensive line change before beating Anderson on a breakaway.
Come the second period, however, the Red Wings took control.
Bertuzzi got the onslaught started with a hard forecheck which forced Chris Phillips to cough up the puck. Lidstrom, the 41-year-old, seven-time Norris Trophy winning defenceman, stepped inside the blueline to corral the errant puck, drove to the net and flipped the puck over Anderson.
The third goal came when Erik Karlsson was bumped off the puck behind the net by Drew Miller, who in turn fed Emmerton. A mere 58 seconds later, Pavel Datsyuk stripped Jared Cowen of the puck inside the blueline and fed Jiri Hudler, who went upstairs on Anderson.
At that point, MacLean, the former long time Red Wings had seen enough, wisely taking a breather for the youngsters on his bench to catch their breath. The Senators sported four rookies, including including 18-year-old Mika Zibanejad, 20-year-old Cowen, 22-year-old Stephane Da Costa and 25-year-old Colin Greening and they were part of a crew which were outclassed by the Red Wings.
WHY THE SENATORS LOST: Mistakes and more mistakes on the Senators blueline. It started with a bad line change, but escalated with countless turnovers by Senators defencemen deep in the Senators zone, leading directly to Detroit’s three-goal second period explosion.
STUD: Todd Bertuzzi, Red Wings. He opened the scoring on a first period breakaway and his hard forecheck forced the Chris Phillips giveaway which led to Niklas Lidstrom’s second period goal, putting the Red Wings in charge.
DUD: Erik Karlsson, Senators. Karlsson was one of only many Ottawa defencemen to have a rough night, but he was shaky in his own end all night. Drew Miller pushed him off the puck behind the Senators net before setting up Cory Emmerton for the third Red Wings goal.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Before the Red Wings caught fire, the Senators had a few chances to open the scoring. Nick Foligno came close to tucking the puck shortside behind Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard and Jason Spezza fanned in the slot following a pretty feed by Milan Michalek.