Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sens stop slide, prepare for western swing

The early, early game on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday agreed with the Ottawa Senators, who took advantage of the daylight action to bring to an end their losing skid, a slide that cost their head coach his job and has called into question the intensity and integrity of the team that once was considered a sure fire bet to repeat as East Division champions.

Saturday afternoon, it was a sample of the old Sens, the ones that could control the play, score the goals when needed and indulge in the physical nature of the play when forced to take matters into their own hands. While some concerns continued to boil to the surface, the positives outweighed the negatives for the first time in a number of weeks for the Sens.

It was the captain Daniel Alfredsson who led the way, scoring two goals and picking up an assist on the way to the Sens 5-4 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. The game was a chippy and physical match, numerous skirmishes broke out through the game and power plays were a frequent occurrence as the two teams tried to find the right formula to take away the two points.

Ottawa managed to deliver for their new coach Bryan Murray who added the coaching position to his portfolio this week after firing head coach John Paddock. Saturday was the first win under Murray, since he took over the Sens on Thursday.

Murray wanted his team to play with more emotion, to stick to their assignments and to provide better defensive play in their own end. It was a checklist that was more than filled for one day at any rate, as the Sens were quickly out to make amends for their play over the last number of weeks.

They pulled ahead for good in the second period, but once again allowed the Pens, like many others to mount a comeback and make things more interesting than they really needed to be.

Penalties played a key role in the game, much to the chagrin of the Pens who felt particularly victimized by the referees in the second period, power play opportunities in the final frame allowed the Sens to secure the win and send their hometown fans home in a happier frame of mind than recent games have.

The Senators now move on to a western incursion, a four game road trip that will see them head for Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix. A series that should provide them with at least a split, but in earlier days would have had folks thinking of a potential sweep.

The time for a road trip is at least right, getting away from the spotlight in Ottawa for a week or so and in the relative hockey anonymity of California could be one of the tonics that the Sens need to reassert themselves in the Eastern Conference scene.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review--Penguins fall short against Senators
Photo from the Ottawa Sun sports page

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