Paddle Save on Datsyuk:
Senators beat Red Wings in first game vs. Alfredsson
Brian Hedger – NHL.com Correspondent
DETROIT — The Ottawa Senators saw their old captain up close for the first time in a Detroit Red Wings uniform and didn’t blink. Then they saw their new captain, Jason Spezza, help spoil Daniel Alfredsson‘s evening in his first action against the team he captained for 13 of his 17 seasons in Ottawa.
Spezza and Bobby Ryan — who was acquired in a trade the same day that Alfredsson chose to sign with Detroit as a free agent — each scored a pair of goals in the Senators’ 6-1 rout of the Red Wings on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena, the first meeting between the teams since Alfredsson’s stunning decision.
“I understand the emotion of the fans and how it becomes personal,” Spezza said. “For us, as players, you try to separate the personal. We knew there was more into the game, that more people would probably be watching tonight, but you try to separate yourself from the personal. I think that helps you stay focused.”
The Senators were definitely focused, from start to finish, in their most complete game of the season. It was Ottawa’s first victory in Detroit since Dec. 12, 2006, the Senators’ first game against the Red Wings as Atlantic Division rivals and their first game at Joe Louis Arena since Oct. 7, 2011, when Paul MacLean’s coaching debut was spoiled by a 5-3 defeat.
This time the Senators (4-3-2) flipped the script, building a big lead and extending Detroit’s winless streak to three games. Eric Gryba and Jared Cowen scored the other goals for Ottawa, which got 31 saves by Craig Anderson.
“I think we finally played a full 60-minute game,” Ryan said. “We’ve seemed to put parts of it together in the past and gotten away from it, and tonight we didn’t. Even when we got up a few, we kept the pedal down, essentially, and that was important.”
Jimmy Howard started for the Red Wings (6-4-1) but lasted only 14:14 before being pulled in favor of Jonas Gustavsson after allowing three goals on eight shots.
Alfredsson started the game at right wing on the top line with captain Henrik Zetterberg and star center Pavel Datsyuk after practicing at this week on the right side of the second unit. It turned out to be a 21-second ode to his illustrious past in Ottawa, as Detroit coach Mike Babcock readjusted his line combinations back to their usual look after the first four shifts.
Alfredsson’s only entry on the scoresheet was a third-period tripping penalty after the outcome had long since been decided.
“It was obviously a different game today, the way it turned out,” he said afterward. “It didn’t feel too crazy. Warmup was what it was. Once the game going, you’re really into it. It was unfortunate the game it was, it didn’t really turn into a good battle, which I expected.”
Spezza and Ryan were largely to thank for that. Spezza has six goals and eight points in his past four games, upping his team-high goals total to seven and team-leading points total to 10. Ryan, who’s scored three goals in as many games, has six goals and nine points.
“For a guy [who’s] been a notorious slow starter it feels good,” Ryan said. “I’ve prepared for it this year, made sure I hit the ice early and took more shots and did all that kind of stuff to put yourself in the kind of position to be successful. So, to come out of the gates like this, I don’t know if I expected it … but I certainly wanted it and it’s been nice.”
It didn’t take the visitors long to build a commanding lead.
Gryba scored his first of the season at 5:46 of the opening period when he took a feed in the slot from Mika Zibanejad and wired a wrister into the top left corner past Howard to the blocker side. Zibanejad, recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, collected the puck behind the net after Detroit rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser couldn’t control it.
Penalties against Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall and Kyle Quincey led to goals by Spezza and Ryan that made it 3-0 and prompted Howard’s removal.
Spezza scored his first one from the left circle with a slapper that caromed off two Detroit defenders before eluding Howard at 10:48 and Ryan zipped a shot from the right circle off a defender’s leg into the top left corner of the net at 14:14.
The Red Wings got one back on Todd Bertuzzi’s power-play wraparound goal two minutes later and that was all the scoring they could get against Anderson.
Detroit has scored a total of three goals in its last three games.
“The bottom line is we were no good here today,” Babcock said. “It’s not like I saw it coming, it’s not like I think our play’s been falling off or anything. I didn’t see it coming, I was surprised to say the least. Disappointed for Alfie that we couldn’t have done a better job here.”
Babcock said flushing this loss out of his team’s system may take some time.
“We have an off day tomorrow so I’m just talking about whether we should have an off day or not. It’s one of those things that I don’t think you forget this very easily and you shouldn’t forget it either. That’s embarrassing to play like we did.”
Detroit dominated the early minutes of the second period, but Anderson kept them from scoring and Spezza’s goal at 5:12 took a lot of the air out of the Red Wings and the crowd. Spezza fired from the high slot and missed the net to the left of Gustavsson, but the puck caromed right back to him and he smacked a shot under the goalie’s left pad and into the net.
It was followed by a big fist pump, even though he and the rest of the Senators tried to downplay the personal importance of the game after the morning skate. Cowen fired home a wrister 1:50 into the third period and Ryan slammed home a rebound at 6:13 to complete the scoring.
“I think it’s good to play well in a big game and I think taking on the captaincy is all about learning every day for me and learning how to be a good captain in this League,” Spezza said. “I was trying to learn under Alfie when he was here and it’s obviously something I wanted. Now that I have the ‘C,’ it’s a matter of trying to learn through different situations and be consistent.”