It wasn’t at all artistic, though games against the New Jersey Devils are rarely anything more than slogs.
It was suspenseful, though, a lot more than it should have been, which is certain to have coach Paul MacLean tugging at his moustache.
But the Ottawa Senators did what they were supposed to do — what everyone hoped and prayed they would do.
They won their home opener, 5-2 over the New Jersey Devils, and in the process gave the less-than-capacity crowd of 18,867 some thrills.
Erik Karlsson, with his second, and Bobby Ryan, with his fourth, gave the Senators a 2-0 lead just seven minutes into the first, taking advantage of an aging and increasingly fallible Martin Brodeur. That looked it would be all they needed.
And when Zack Smith, with his second of the season, scored at 18:41 of the second to make it 3-0, it looked as if the game was effectively over.
Except that it wasn’t.
Travis Zajac scored on a five-on-three 54 seconds into the third, thanks to a couple of dumb penalties, and then Steve Bernier made it 3-2 at 10:59. Game on.
But Milan Michalek ended the threat with his second of the year at 15:12, Jason Spezza added another into an open net at 18:14, and Craig Anderson hung on to get his second straight win.
Fans couldn’t have asked for much more.
On its first night as the new sponsor of the arena, Canadian Tire even paid for parking.
So everyone went home happy. Well, almost everyone. Senators coach Paul MacLean will certainly have his reservations.
It’s clear the Senators can play a lot better than they played on Thursday. They have the talent — on paper at least — to be a threat in the Eastern Conference.
But there’s plenty of work to do. The game was much closer than it should have been.
The Senators looked sluggish as the game opened, giving truth to the hockey cliché that a team generally plays poorly in its first game back after a long road trip.
But Karlsson seemed to rouse his teammates, and the crowd, with a rush up the centre of the ice about four minutes into the period.
That got the Senators into the New Jersey zone, and, ultimately, their first goal, when Karlsson got the puck back from Ryan and ripped a shot through Brodeur’s legs.
Two minutes later, it was Ryan’s turn. He took a pass from Turris and did a quick wraparound to put another shot through an uncommonly fallible Brodeur.
The Devils had some chances in the period’s final minutes when Jared Cowen (roughing) and Clarke MacArthur (slashing) took back-to-back penalties.
But Anderson was good, and lucky, and Michael Ryder neutralized New Jersey’s advantage when he took a tripping penalty.
Yes, it’s disappointing that Daniel Alfredsson packed his bags and left down, but Bobby Ryan is a heck of a replacement. He picked up an assist on Erik Karlsson’s opening goal, then two minutes later put a pass from Kyle Turris through the great Martin Brodeur for his fourth goal in seven games.
It was sad to watch the once-great Brodeur. Three of the goals the Senators scored on him would have not got past him five years ago. Indeed, after Ryan made it 2-0 at 6:51 of the first, it looked as if New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer was ready to use the hook. At 41, Brodeur looks as if he’s at the end of his reign.
WHY THEY WON
Because they found just enough energy, through strong games from Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan, to hold off the slow and aging Devils. Lucky, too. A stronger opponent would have spoiled the home opener.
The Senators would have had an easier time against the Devils if they had not taken so many penalties, a problem that has plagued them through their first seven games. Just when it seemed they had the game under control, they’d take another dumb penalty. In all, they took seven minors.
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