Slowly, the Senators are coming back to life.
Obviously, a much improved level of competition from Ottawa in a town, Washington, where they had some success last season. They managed to keep Alex Ovechkin to only 3 shots but one of them snuck through the pads of Pascal Leclaire in overtime, deflating a little the positive feeling that was building on that visitors bench. It was a tough one to watch Leclaire give up, because he was having another rock solid night, but Ovechkin has routinely beaten goaltenders in exactly the same way his whole career, just like Mark Messier and Joe Sakic did with their off-timed wrist shots (often shot off the wrong foot in mid stride).
Ovie made a last minute dip on Chris Phillips and released the puck along the ice a split second before you would naturally expect him to, and Leclaire was caught moving a little, throwing his timing off just enough to allow the puck to slip through. It's a devastating move that Ovechkin has mastered and Leclaire was just the latest victim. He shouldn't be thrown under the bus for it by the fans in the coming days.
Still, the Senators gained their first point of the season, and more importantly, looked like a team ready to compete and fight for pucks along the boards and in behind the net. The power-play is still in shambles but there was a few positive developments.
Erik Karlsson woke up a little tonight, but he still doesn't look exactly right. He was dropped to the third pairing with Brian Lee but he seemed more confident on the power-play at times. It would be a good bet that at the five game mark, Karlsson will be back in a groove and the threat of being shipped to Bingo will have been safely put to rest.
The newly created line of Peter Regin, Alex Kovalev and Ryan Shannon was dangerous most of the night, giving the Senators at least two lines that seem to be playing well. The "third" line of Chris Kelly, Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu was the team's best for the third game in a row and Ruutu's goal seemed to give the Senators a major boost that lasted the rest of the game.
Cory Clouston looks pretty smart by inserting Shannon into the lineup over Jesse Winchester and throwing him together with Kovalev and Regin, a line that worked at times last year. It gave Kovalev some jump and more importantly, it brought Regin back from the dead and he played a helluva game, logging five shots, tying for the team lead with Shannon.
The Senators desperately need the two day break here to get some practice in and get their moribund power-play into some kind of serviceable shape before they face the Hurricanes in their second home game.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Jarkko Ruutu
2. Pascal Leclaire
3. Peter Regin
Honourable Mentions: Ryan Shannon, Chris Kelly and Chris Neil