They finally figured out how to hold onto a lead. After blowing three against the New York Rangers the night before, the Senators went up 3-1 in the second period and held the Devils off until the final buzzer. Not that things didn’t get a little dicey along the way. Goalie Pascal Leclaire had to be very good — and very lucky — in the third period.
Erik Karlsson, Senators
He was instrumental to Ottawa’s strong start. Karlsson scored the opening goal with a seeing-eye shot through traffic at 15:30 of the first period, then picked up an assist in the second when another shot turned into an easy rebound goal for Milan Michalek. Karlsson, who was a plus-three on the night, has four points in his last three games.
Martin Brodeur, Devils
He looked a little rusty early in his first game since Nov. 18 (elbow injury). Brodeur, one of the best puck-handling goalies the game has ever seen, tried to start a breakout midway through the second period and instead committed a bad giveaway to Chris Kelly. The play continued behind the net, where Jarkko Ruutu picked up the puck and banked a shot off the goalie and in. Not pretty.
The Devils hit the post twice in the third period, but the biggest turning point came when they thought they’d scored with less than six minutes remaining in the game. The on-ice officials ruled that Devils winger David Clarkson kicked the puck in, and the NHL war room didn’t see enough evidence to overturn the call. It was so borderline, however, that it might have gone the other way had the referees originally signaled a goal.
- 18:18: Ice time for Alex Kovalev, who whined his way to first-line duty against the Devils.
- 29: Saves for Pascal Leclaire.
- 20: Blocked shots for the Senators.
- 1: Win for Ottawa in its last five home games.
YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
The A-Train pulling back into the station. Former Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov returned to Ottawa for the first time since signing a six-year contract with the Devils over the summer, and fans gave him a lengthy ovation after a video board tribute. The warm welcome prompted an emotional-looking Volchenkov to raise his stick slightly as a gesture of gratitude. Zdeno Chara must wonder what he did differently to get booed every time he steps in this rink.
At least a visit from the Devils reminded the Senators they aren’t the only ones with a struggling, enigmatic Kovie. Both Ottawa’s Alex Kovalev (one goal last 10 games) and Jersey’s Iyla Kovalchuk (one goal last 11 games) have butted heads with their coaches and failed to live up to expectations this season. The good news for the Senators is they aren’t committed to their Kovie for 14 more years.