STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Daniel Alfredsson
would have loved to deliver an Ottawa win for the home country fans who packed the Globe Arena on Saturday night. Those fans cheered the Swedish star's every move as the Senators played the Pittsburgh Penguins
in the opening game of the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 series here.
But the storybook ending wasn't meant to be. Instead, Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy occupied the role of hero, scoring two goals — including the game-winner with 25 seconds left in OT — to lead the Penguins to a 4-3 win.
The Senators coughed up a 3-2 lead in the third period, something that didn't sit well with Alfredsson or any of the Senators. Fortunately, they have the opportunity to immediately make amends.
"You can analyze a loss any way you want," Alfredsson said. "It's always frustrating when you are leading by one goal in the third and you lose. We'll regroup and hopefully have a better effort tomorrow."
The Senators won't have much time to regroup; the final game of this two-game set is scheduled for Sunday night.
But they know they will have to answer some questions.
Ottawa's power play was not very good on Saturday, and the Senators failed to convert on a lengthy 5-on-3 to start the third period when they were still leading 3-2. It was a chance squandered to put the game away with another score.
The Senators also know they have to be better at protecting the puck. A careless neutral-zone turnover by Jason Spezza — who otherwise had a great game, including a shorthanded goal and an assist on a power-play tally by Dany Heatley — led to Kennedy's game-winning goal.
Craig Hartsburg, coaching his first game for Ottawa, says Spezza knows that he should have been more careful in that situation.
"The last goal, we just have to be more careful," he said. "We talked to Jason. As a team, we have to protect the puck better. We want our people to challenge people with speed. But, just protect the puck, Put the puck in an area where we can maybe get it back, rather than having to drag it through people."
The team also knows it needs better goaltending. Martin Gerber, who stopped 26 of 30 shots, allowed Kennedy to score on the first and last shots of the game. He also gave up a questionable goal to Rob Scuderi that tied the game at 3-all in the third period.
"I think we'll look at the goals," said Hartsburg, who will bring goalie coach Eli Wilson into that conversation. "I'm sure there are some things there that Martin probably wouldn't be happy with. But as a team we have to learn from it and get ready to play tomorrow." The positive the Senators can take into Sunday is that they still got a point from their opening game and they were able to hang with the Penguins, despite some first-period adversity, including taking the first five penalties of the game.
Despite the win, Pittsburgh knows it will have to be ready for a more committed, more intense Ottawa squad — meaning that the Penguins will have to be that much better than they were Saturday night.
The Penguins were also not happy with their power play, which struggled for long stretches, and their inability to maintain possession of the puck.
"Both teams made some mistakes," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "This is the first game, so that's understandable."
Sunday, it will no longer be the first game, so both teams should be much sharper. That means that Sunday's game could be even better than the classic that graced the Globe Arena on Saturday night.