The Ottawa Senators were up to the challenge of facing the NHL’s winningest team in a potential Stanley Cup finals preview, even if only standings points and bragging rights were at stake.
Daniel Alfredsson scored his second power-play goal of the game with 2:56 remaining to lift Ottawa to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night in a matchup of the league’s top two teams.
Ottawa leads the Eastern Conference with 62 points, second overall to Detroit’s total of 70 atop the West.
Alfredsson was cautious about putting too much stock in the game’s significance.
“I don’t think it was more important but I think that we knew of their record coming in,” he said. “They haven’t lost a lot of games in regulation, they’re playing really well, they’ve got a lot of players that are fun to watch and very good defensively so I think that got us ready. We really respected their team, there’s no question, and I think we played our best game in quite a while.”
Alfredsson restored Ottawa’s lead with his 28th goal of the season after the Senators blew a 2-0 advantage earlier in the period. The Ottawa captain also scored on a slap shot from the point past former teammate Dominik Hasek to open the scoring just 1:04 in.
Mike Fisher also scored and had an assist for Ottawa as he and Alfredsson extended their scoring streaks to nine games.
Detroit scored twice in the third, tying it with 7:54 remaining after Senators all-star Dany Heatley departed earlier in the period with an apparent right shoulder injury.
“I don’t know if they played their best game, we certainly didn’t play our best game, especially in the first 40 minutes,” Hasek said. “I think it was a little bit disappointing for everyone in the locker room.”
Brian Rafalski scored on a power play 7:46 into the third to cut it to 2-1. Jiri Hudler evened it at 2 when he jumped on a rebound of Nicklas Lidstrom’s point shot off the end boards left of the net and drove a slap shot past Ottawa goalie Ray Emery.
“We didn’t feel we played like we could tonight, for whatever reason, through 40 minutes so you’ve got to give them a lot of credit,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “There’s two parts – there’s your part and their part and they were quicker, more physical and more determined at the start and I thought we got going, but in the end it was their day.”
Heatley left after he fell awkwardly into the boards while checking Detroit’s Dallas Drake behind the Senators’ net. He did not return. The team said he had an upper body injury and didn’t say if he would miss any time.
“You take a 50-goal man out of your lineup, other guys have to step up and score,” linemate Jason Spezza said. “Everybody has to kind of pick up a little bit of the slack. Every team goes through injuries and we’re going to have to do the same thing. We’ll just have to deal with it.”
Elsewhere in the NHL, it was: Bruins 4 Flyers 3, Kings 4 Stars 3, Avalanche 5 Hurricanes 4, Rangers 4 Canadiens 1, Devils 3 Sabres 2, Lightning 5 Panthers 3, Thrashers 3 Penguins 2, Blue Jackets 2 Predators 1 and Sharks 3 Maple Leafs 2.
At Ottawa, Emery, Hasek’s backup with the Senators during the first half of the 2005-06 season, made 27 saves for his third straight win as Ottawa extended its winning streak to four.
“I think it was a test for us,” Emery said. “They’ve been having a good year and they’re first in the NHL so it kind of measures you up to the other conference and it gives you an idea of what a kind of a big game feels like again.”
Hasek, who recorded shutouts in Dallas and against Colorado in each of his last two starts, was Ottawa’s starting goalie two seasons ago until he suffered a season-ending groin injury while playing for the Czech Republic during the Olympics in Turin.
“I played with him for a year so it’s not like I’m star-struck,” Emery said. “Any time you’re playing against a guy like that, a guy who’s one of the best to ever play, you know that you’ve got to play well to give your team a chance to win against a goalie like that.”
Alfredsson’s first goal ended Hasek’s shutout streak at 135 minutes, 22 seconds.
“I thought (Hasek) played excellent,” Lidstrom said. “They had some other great chances where they could have been ahead a couple of goals, too. He kept us in the game early on and it is encouraging that we battled back, but still disappointing, losing at the end.”
Steve Yzerman was honoured by the Senators before the game for his recent induction into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame. The Red Wings legend and Ottawa native dropped the puck in a ceremonial faceoff.
Heatley had his former teammate beaten twice earlier in the game but failed to convert both times. Heatley hit the right post 8:42 in with a delayed interference penalty signalled against Drake. The all-star right wing hit the left post when he shot after he was sent in alone by Alfredsson on a breakaway in the second.
Bruins 4 Flyers 3
At Philadelphia, Aaron Ward scored 43 seconds into overtime to lift the Boston Bruins past the Flyers.
Kings 4 Stars 3
At Los Angeles, Patrick O’Sullivan scored the deciding goal in a shootout and Alexander Frolov and Derek Armstrong scored 67 seconds apart in the first period as the Kings beat the Dallas Stars.
Avalanche 5 Hurricanes 4
At Raleigh, N.C., Marek Svatos capped a third-period rally with two goals in about two minutes as the Colorado Avalanche rallied three times from two-goal deficits to beat the Carolina Hurricanes.
Rangers 4 Canadiens 1
At New York, Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes had a goal and an assist apiece, Henrik Lundqvist got back on track and the Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens to end their five-game winless streak.
Devils 3 Sabres 2
At Buffalo, N.Y., Patrik Elias and Zach Parise scored shootout goals in New Jersey’s win over Buffalo, extending the Sabres’ winless streak to nine games.
Lightning 5 Panthers 3
At Sunrise, Fla., Nick Tarnasky and Brad Richards each scored two goals, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Panthers.
Thrashers 3 Penguins 2
At Atlanta, Mark Recchi, playing against his former Pittsburgh teammates for the first time, scored the only goal in a shootout to give the Thrashers win over the Penguins.
Blue Jackets 2 Predators 1
At Columbus, Ohio, Nikolai Zherdev scored the lone shootout goal and set up the tying goal in regulation to help the Blue Jackets end a 12-game losing streak against the Nashville Predators.
Sharks 3 Maple Leafs 2
At San Jose, Calif., Joe Pavelski deflected home the go-ahead goal with 9:39 to play, and the Sharks rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period for their seventh win in eight games over the miserable Toronto Maple Leafs.