STOCKHOLM – Talk about a stunning debut!
Only a fairytale night by Sweden's Daniel Alfredsson before the countrymen that adore him could knock Alex Auld from the headlines Sunday night.
The Ottawa goalie, making his first start for his new club after signing a free-agent deal during the summer, stopped the first 30 shots he faced from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the finale of the Bridgestone NHL Premiere series here.
He was just 1.2 seconds from a shutout when rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski ripped a Sidney Crosby feed past Auld and into the net, just beating the buzzer.
Auld tried to dismiss talk about the heartbreaking loss of the shutout on the game's final play, but he abandoned that tact rather quickly.
"Obviously it would have been nice (to get the shutout)," he said. "I'm not going to play it that cool."
But, he did play it that cool on the ice Sunday, spelling an ineffective Martin Gerber, who had some issues in Saturday night's 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins. Auld, on this night, had no issues.
"Alex Auld looked like he was in position all night," said Alfredsson, who had assists on both of Dany Heatley's power-play goals and added another unforgettable chapter to his burgeoning legend.
Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg, who earned his first NHL win Sunday night, received everything he could have asked for when he decided to use the backup in Game 2 of an 82-game grind.
"(Alex) was good, solid all night," Hartsburg said. "All training camp he has been good. He's a big body, covers a lot of net and had great composure all night."
Those scouting reports have to be music to the ears of Auld, who was hoping to make a good first impression on the Senators.
"It's great to show a new team what you can do early on," said Auld, who somehow even trumped Alfredsson – the national hero – for first-star honors for the game. "I felt really good, right from the start tonight."
Switching it up – Despite winning Saturday's game, Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien made two changes for Sunday's game.
On defense, he replaced veteran Darryl Sydor with rookie Alex Goligoski, a puck-moving defenseman that is deadly on the power play. Goligoski delivered on the confidence shown in him, breaking up Auld's bid for the shutout with a power-play goal in the waning seconds of the game. It was Pittsburgh's first power-play goal in 13 opportunities this season.
The other move saw fourth-line center Jeff Taffe benched in favor of Bill Thomas, the Pittsburgh native that made his hometown club on the last day of camp. Thomas saw 7 shifts of action, playing 5:34 and managing a shot on goal. He also saw a few shifts on the penalty kill.v
The injured Petr Sykora (groin) was the other scratch for Pittsburgh.
Other than the switch in goal, Ottawa stayed with the same lineup as the one that played Saturday night. The injured Mike Fisher (groin), Cody Bass and defenseman Luke Richardson did not dress.
A memorable night – Paul Bissonnette is still basking in the glow of making his NHL debut Saturday night here for the Penguins.
Bissonnette, drafted in 2003 by the Penguins, completed his five-year odyssey to the NHL by serving fourth-line duty for the Penguins in Saturday's win. He played seven shifts, totaling 4 minutes and 10 seconds. He did not register a shot on net and was a minus-1, but did have 3 hits.
Yet, the details of the appearance weren't of importance; but, rather, the appearance itself was the story.
Bissonnette, 23, had spent 3 full seasons in the minor leagues and was not at the forefront of the coaching staff's thoughts when camp began. But, Bissonnette fought and clawed his way into the lineup in the preseason and never stopped improving.
My first NHL game really stands out and to win it means a lot," Bissonnette told NHL.com at Monday's morning skate. "I don't that I have really set down and thought about it yet and what it means, but I will."
But, he knows he beat the longest of odds.
"If you asked me a year ago if I would be here now, it wouldn't have been in my wildest dreams," he said, adding he had a few sleepless nights thinking about what his hockey future held.
Now, though, he knows that all the hard work and sleepless nights have paid off in the most unforgettable of ways.
"Sidney Crosby was saying after the game how cool it was that I made my NHL debut in Sweden; not too many guys can say that," Bissonnette said.
Bissonnette also played on Sunday, managing just for shifts – for 3:47 of ice time. But, he did manage his first shot on net, a fairly decent scoring chance toward the middle of the game. He even got to play a shift with Crosby as his center on Sunday night.