Emotionally scarred or not, the Senators took an upbeat approach to Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
They spoke about the need for communication and execution, of trust and belief in each other despite having lost three of their previous four games.
Privately, they also hoped that, for a change, a hockey god might smile upon them. The gods appeared to be paying attention, winking at a puck that dribbled through the pads of Wild goaltender Josh Harding off the stick of Kyle Turris. This time it crossed the line, no review required. Atonement.
After a grim turn of events in Philadelphia on Tuesday, the Senators looked for some kind of sign from above that they wouldn’t again be cursed as they were against the Flyers when a shot by Turris hit the only two skate blades separating the puck from becoming the go-ahead goal.
“I haven’t watched the replay and I don’t want to,” Turris said prior to the Wild game, still shaking his head over a shot that hit the left skate, then the right, of defenceman Nicklas Grossman before bouncing back out.
“I could do that a thousand more times and not one of them would hit both legs and come back out,” Turris said. “That was frustrating.”
And then Turris added, about the bounces evening out: “You never know when it’s going to be going for you. (Wednesday) is another chance to set it straight and move in the right direction.”
There it was, with the Senators shorthanded in the first period. Clarke MacArthur burst into an opening and slid a breathtaking stick-through-the-legs pass to Turris, who swept it past Harding for Ottawa’s first shorty of the season. And a rare early lead for the Senators.
Though the Wild answered back on the same power play, a short time later Senators winger Mika Zibanejad brilliantly reached out while prone on the ice to slide a puck past Harding. It was Zibanejad’s fifth of the season as he slowly works his way out of the organizational doghouse.
Head coach Paul MacLean had said he wanted to see a “workman’s” ethic from his team, especially in the Senators zone, which has been sprinkled with mine fields this season. At times, the message appeared to have been received, as Ottawa was tighter and tougher in its own zone.
And then Erik Karlsson let former Senators winger and crowd target Dany Heatley walk to the side of goal and jam a puck through Craig Anderson for a 3-2 Wild lead in the second period. This was only three minutes after Heatley assisted on a seeing-eye point shot from Jonas Brodin that had tied the game 2-2.
Asked if there was personal satisfaction in scoring against his former team, Heatley said:
“Nah, I’m past that. It’s fun to get booed now.”
No. 15 claimed he could tell by looking at fans faces that their hearts weren’t into the booing, which was pretty light.
“They’re only doing it for fun now, I think,” Heatley said. “That’s how I’m taking it. It definitely wasn’t as bad as my first time back.”
The salt-in-wound Heatley goal — the equivalent of the Senators having their noses rubbed in the doo-doo, was a microcosm of the first 22 Ottawa games. Giveaways and loose plays and a starting goaltender who was yesterday’s saviour, but not today’s. The Brodin goal represented two goals by the visitors on eight shots; by the time Heatley scored, Anderson had given up three goals on 11 Minnesota shots.
“You can’t count on the goalie being your saviour every single game,” defenceman Marc Methot had said. “We were pretty fortunate last year to have that. But it’s time now for us to grow up a little bit here and mature defensively and really start playing a lot more sound in our own end.”
The Senators finally scored a third period power play goal, by Milan Michalek, to tie the game and lift spirits, until a late goal by Mikko Koivu crushed them.
A Wild win.
LALIME NOD TO LEHNER
Before Robin Lehner became No. 40 in goal for the Ottawa Senators, a guy named Patrick Lalime wore it with distinction.
Lalime, an RDS analyst, likes the measure of Lehner, who wasn’t afraid to take his share of the blame in the Flyer victory. Lalime called the Lehner approach “professional.
“When it’s tough times, you want to make a difference. And I like when guys are looking at themselves, not saying — all these guys have to score goals or this and that. Robin talked about his game and said he could have been better. I’m sure he lives well with it.
“I think he’s got all the tools and even the attitude to go a long way. He’s a battler. He wants to win.”
Ten years after the fact, Lalime still doesn’t blame either Martin Havlat or Wade Redden for failing to contain Jeff Friesen, who scored the Game 7 winner for New Jersey late in the Eastern Conference final.
“As a goalie, you always think, ‘oh I should have had it.’ ” Lalime says. “You don’t blame everybody else. They made a play and he came wide open. I remember that exactly. He made a little move to go inside, then went back outside, it’s the game of hockey. It’s a game of mistakes. I’m sure if you asked everybody on the ice, they would say maybe I could have done a little more here, a little more there.
“That’s how I looked at it, too. At the end of the day, you could make the save and change the whole thing.”
A decade after the fact, the sting hurts. Lalime never again got that deep in the playoffs.
“It’s tough memories. You get close to achieving something you always wanted to.”