|A late goal by Daniel Alfredsson (Video ), his second of the game, gave Ottawa supremacy between the league's top two teams in each conference.
But the Ottawa Senators’ captain made sure that the top team in the Eastern Conference got the respect it deserves, too.
Alfredsson scored a pair of power-play goals, including the game-winner with just under three minutes to play in regulation, as the Senators earned a pulsating 3-2 win over the Red Wings at a sold-out Scotiabank Place on Saturday night.
It was a playoff-type atmosphere in Canada’s capital city, as more than 20,000 fans packed the building to honor Steve Yzerman in a pre-game ceremony for his recent induction into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame. Yzerman, who captained the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups, is an Ottawa native.
On this night, though, Yzerman’s team fell short. Alfredsson’s game-winner came with 2:56 to play when he cranked a slap shot past Dominik Hasek from the right circle to pull Ottawa within eight points of Detroit for the overall points lead in the NHL.
"We knew of their record coming in, and they've got lots of players who are fun to watch and are very good defensively, so that got us ready. We really respected their team, and I thought we played our best game in a while," Alfredsson said. "I felt good. I was able to get to the puck a lot and I felt comfortable with it. We were able to get some chances and it was fun to play."
The Senators needed only 69 seconds to get on the board, and it was the captain who broke the scoreless tie. Alfredsson took a pass from Dany Heatley — who left the game in the third period due to what has been termed by the Senators as an upper body injury — and one-timed a rocket past Hasek as Ottawa grabbed a 1-0 lead. The goal ended Hasek’s shutout streak at 135:22.
''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.''
Mike Fisher put the Sens up by a pair at 3:26 of the second period. He took a pass from defenseman Luke Richardson, made a nifty move to split the defense and ripped a shot that Hasek was able to stop. But the Red Wings’ netminder left a big rebound, and Fisher was there to put it home for his 16th goal of the season. It was the lone goal of the middle frame as Ottawa held a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.
"We didn't have much speed in the first two periods, and they did a good job on the forecheck and on the backside pressure," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought in the third period we got it going and it's obviously unfortunate we weren't able to come all the way back."
The Red Wings didn’t get to the top of the NHL standings for nothing, though. Things started to go south for Ottawa after Heatley crashed into the boards following a hit on Dallas Drake behind the Sens’ net. Detroit’s Brian Rafalski made it a 2-1 game with a power play goal at 7:46, and Jiri Hudler beat Ray Emery with 7:54 remaining as Ottawa surrendered yet another 2-0 lead in the third period. The Sens, who have won four straight, also blew a 2-0 lead to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
"When you lose one of your better players partway through the game you're never happy about it, but you just can't think about it," Senators forward Jason Spezza said of Heatley, who has yet to miss a game with Ottawa since joining the team before the start of the 2005-06 season.
But Alfredsson made sure the majority of the capacity crowd went home happy when he broke the 2-2 tie with his second-power play goal of the night. Detroit had not allowed a power play goal in its last nine games.
“These are the two toughest months — January and February,” said Alfredsson, who now has 28 goals this season. “You kind of need these games to get that little bit extra sometimes. I think we’ve done a good job, but tonight, we played really well.”
Material from wire services, team online and broadcast media was used in this report.