– Nights don't come much more perfect than the one Sunday night at the Globe Arena
, Ottawa's Swedish captain, set up two goals by Dany Heatley
to pace Ottawa to a 3-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins
in the second half of this unique home-and-home in Sweden's capital.
At the game's conclusion, he was named the game's second star, delighting the capacity crowd of 13,699 that crammed into the Globe to see Alfredsson place his second – and likely last – NHL game in Sweden.
During the game's last minute, with Ottawa holding a commanding 3-0 lead, the crowd was in full throat, chanting Alfredsson's name over and over.
Asked if it was the perfect night, Alfredsson didn't even try to temper his joy.
"Pretty much," he said. "It couldn't have been much better."
This whole week has been a dream for Alfredsson, who played an exhibition game in Gothenburg, against his former team, Frolunda, before coming here to Stockholm to help the NHL kick of the regular season with the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 series here against Sidney Crosby
and the Penguins.
And, as Sunday's victory started to sink in – in that long last minute of play – the usually-focused Alfredsson lost it just a bit. He looked around the crowd and savored the voices calling his name. He let the moment wash over him – and what a moment it was.
"I just tried to soak it all in at the end when were up 3-0," he said. "It was nice that I could look into the crowd and take it all in.
"I'm going to rank this among the highlights of my career. I was very fortunate to have this experience."
Alfredsson, an immensely-popular leader, took his teammates along for the ride all week. They loved how he capped off the journey Sunday night.
, who had a heroic performance of his own in turning aside 30 shots in his first start with the Senators, was amazed at what he saw all week – especially Sunday night.
"He's such a special player and means a lot to a special hockey nation," says Auld, who lost his shutout bid when the Penguins scored a power-play goal with 1.2 seconds remaining in the game.
"It was amazing to be around. He's such a national hero, and it's cool to see that because you never get to see that."
The Swedish fans that dominated the Globe Arena crowd didn't want to let Alfredsson go on this night. When he returned to the ice to take a customary twirl to acknowledge his selection as the second star, the fans applauded. Those near the runway reached out to touch him as he left the ice for good.
"I didn't think he would get to the locker room with any equipment on," said Craig Hartsburg
, the Ottawa coach.
But, a few missing pieces of equipment was a small price to pay for the memories Alfredsson will savor forever.
It is also a small price to pay to fly back to North America with three of four standings points in your pocket, which is what Ottawa did after taking Sunday's game with a gritty effort against a team that swept them out of the playoffs last season in the first round and shocked them with a come-from-behind victory Saturday night in the opener of this unique European home-and-home series.
"We got three out of four points, and the way we played, it couldn't be more encouraging,"
Alfredsson said. And, Heater stepped up with two goals.”
Ah, yes, Heatley. Everyone forget about the Sens' new alternate captain, who owned the ice this weekend, as he bobbed along in the wake of Alfredsson. But, Heatley scored a pair of power-play goals to spur on the Senators on this night.
He already has three goals on the young season. Antoine Vermette
scored Ottawa's other goal.
, put in the lineup in place of veteran Darryl Sydor
in an attempt to provide some offense from the blue line, authored the only downer of the night for Ottawa, blasting a one-timer past Auld to deny the free-agent signee a shutout in his first start with his new club.
Crosby, who had an assist in the first game, and Evgeni Malkin
, who had a shorthanded goal in Saturday's victory, provided the assists on Goligoski's tally, Pittsburgh's first power-play conversion in the 13 opportunities they were handed during the two games. Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
made 24 saves.
Heatley, who scored a rebound goal and a traditional one-timer as Ottawa went 2-for-4 with the man advantage, said the night was all about passion and effort.
"For the group, this was a big weekend for us," he said. "We were hungry for these two games. Tonight, we wanted to come out and battle and that's what we did."
Hartsburg – who earned his first NHL win on this memorable night – agreed with Heatley's assessment of the game.
"We had no passengers tonight," the coach said. "We chipped pucks, we didn't turn pucks over and we played hard. Everyone worked hard tonight."
The Senators may have no drivers Sunday night in Stockholm, but it was very evident that they had a Swedish driver at the wheel.