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Duchene glad to put first game with Senators behind him

Forward says defeating Avalanche in first game since trade 'special moment'

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

STOCKHOLM -- Matt Duchene was off the bench and on the ice before Mark Stone could even finish his celebration. He was there before either Erik Karlsson or Derick Brassard, who actually were on the ice when the game-winning goal was scored, there before the rest of his teammates, there to revel in the win and the relief of it all being over.

For Duchene, this was the moment he needed.

 

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"The door was wide open," Duchene said, with a grin, after the Ottawa Senators defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm on Friday. "I was right there. So I was pretty fired up that we were able to win that first one. That was a special moment for me. It's been a crazy week."

Crazy might not quite cover it. After Duchene was traded mid-game Sunday when his Avalanche were playing the New York Islanders, he joined his new team, the Senators, for the trip to Sweden for the NHL Global Series games, when they were set to face -- yes, the Avalanche -- in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, RDS, ALT, NHL.TV). Ottawa sent forward Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators in the three-team trade to acquire Duchene.

It had been a week of change, of disruption, of emotion, of upheaval. It had been a week unlike any other in Duchene's career. It had been a week when his brain was working overtime, trying to figure out how he fit into the new team and system, trying to figure out his new game plan, trying to figure out how to get along in a foreign country while still running into his former teammates in their shared hotel.

Which made it not all that surprising that the emotion poured out of him in the final moment, when Stone one-timed the puck into the back of the net, ending overtime 59 seconds after it started.

"It's been a long time coming for him," Stone said. "I think he's been looking for a fresh start for a while. The guys were pretty happy to be able to do that for him."

He had nearly done it himself.

Video: Stone leads Sens to 4-3 overtime win in Global Series

Duchene and Mike Hoffman had a 2-on-1 the shift before the game-winner, one thwarted at the last second by Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson when they went in on goalie Semyon Varlamov.

"I was excited," Duchene said. "Hoff was trying his hardest to get me the puck. I don't think Johnson wanted me to have it, he kind of took it away. But we obviously had a good shift there, then we turned around -- as soon as we get back to the bench, we score."

The idea had always been that Duchene would need to control his emotions, to remain as even as he could in the face of an impossible situation. It was a tough ask. But it was one that coach Guy Boucher had made of his newest player, telling him how crucial it was to do what he could.

"We had a good talk," Boucher said. "This is as hard as it can get for a hockey player."

Hard to keep the feelings in check. Hard to filter out what needed to be filtered and concentrate on what was worthy.

"I probably let my emotions get a little too out of whack when they scored to tie it and I was out on the ice," Duchene said, of the goal by Nathan MacKinnon at 12:53 of the third period that made it 3-3. "You start to beat yourself up a little bit."

Duchene found himself again. He calmed his breathing and focused his mind and refreshed his outlook. He realized that he was being too hard on himself, realized that this wasn't going to help him. He shooed away the butterflies that had been with him all week, and returned to the job that he knows he can do.

That, of course, will continue to be a work in progress. Duchene needs to adjust to the Senators; they need to adjust to him. The sides need to find the fit that caused Ottawa to go out and trade for him this week after a season's worth of speculation.

"It's not an easy situation to be put in," Karlsson said. "We're going to have to give him a little bit of time to really react the potential that we all know that he has and I think that over the course of the season I think that you're going to notice that he's going to fit in really good in the group that we have and the system that we play.

"He's someone that has a lot more potential than I think most people even think, which says a lot about a guy like that."

And that potential will be there when his life calms down, when the Senators return to Ottawa, when Duchene, 26, settles into his new city and new team, when the Avalanche years feel far behind him.

That wasn't the case yet Friday. It still all felt so new, so raw.

In some ways, it was harder than he had expected. In some ways, though, it wasn't nearly as hard.

There was an odd familiarity. He knew the players on the ice. He just knew the wrong ones.

"It wasn't as overwhelming as I thought," Duchene said. "It kind of felt like our burgundy-and-white game at the start of the season, only I didn't have any of the burgundy or white on my team."

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