OTTAWA -- The crowd at Canadian Tire Centre chanted Craig Anderson's name after the Ottawa Senators goaltender made 33 saves in a 3-0 win against the New York Islanders on Saturday.
It was a touching moment in what has been a difficult season for the 35-year-old and his family.
Anderson played his first game since Dec. 5, returning from personal leave to be with his wife, Nicholle, who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer. The Anderson family returned to Ottawa earlier this week.
Video: NYI@OTT: Anderson enjoys perfect return to lineup
"I couldn't be happier to see some normalcy back in our life," Nicholle tweeted before the start of the game. "Let's go Guys! #GoSensGo."
Craig Anderson said he appreciated the support he's received over the past two months, highlighted by the "Andy! Andy! Andy!" chants after the game Saturday.
"The city of Ottawa, the organization, it's just been a dream come true the way they've handled everything and allowed me to be a husband and be dad," he told TSN after the game. "Family first, and they've really hammered that home, and I can't thank the city and the organization enough."
Anderson said he told the Senators coaching staff Friday he was ready to play after his first full practice of the week.
"I wanted to make sure I was ready to go and felt confident leaving practice," he said. "The last thing to come back is the confidence. We did a lot of work with the goalie coach (Pierre Groulx) … you can only do so many goalie drills. It's just different compared to seeing actual full practices, lots of traffic, lots of rebounds and just tracking the puck. That's what I kind of picked up the last two days, and [I] felt confident in my abilities to come in tonight and play."
Anderson is 13-6-1 with a 2.34 goals against average, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts.
"What I have in mind now is he just continues what he had started before he had to leave," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "He makes it look easy. There were hard shots. This is a great offensive team. When you look at how he controlled his rebounds, or how far popped out those rebounds, those are really good players with experience. He played terrific."
The Islanders said they could have done a better job of getting traffic in front of Anderson, but forward Josh Bailey said he was impressed by the goalie given the circumstances.
"He was really good," Bailey said. "It's a tough thing he's going through. I don't know him personally, but you wish the best for him. Obviously we didn't want him to get a shutout tonight, [but] I think sometimes you have to tip your cap."