|Previously a career minor league for nearly a decade, Matt Carkner earned himself a full-time home on the Senators blue line during the 2009-10 season (Getty Images).
After the sting of defeat finally wore off, Matt Carkner
allowed himself more than a few moments of satisfaction.
They were surely well earned.
Then again, when you've spent the better part of a decade toiling in the minors and your National Hockey League dream finally arrives ... as Carkner puts it, "I can't really complain about my year."
Even if the first-round Stanley Cup playoff exit at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't really sit too well with anyone in the Senators dressing room.
"For the first few weeks there (after their elimination), I was pretty grumpy watching other teams play," Carkner admitted in an interview with OttawaSenators.com. "But when all was said and done, my friends and family all congratulated me and helped me remember what a great season it was for me personally."
Indeed, it was. The 29-year-old native of nearby Winchester went into training camp last fall expecting to start the season where he'd finished the previous two — with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League. But Carkner couldn't be denied a spot on the season-opening roster in Ottawa.
It got even better from there. Carkner scored his first NHL goal in the Senators' home-opener against the New York Islanders and was named the game's first star. By the end of October, he'd earned himself a new two-year, one-way contract, giving Carkner and his family the security they'd desired for so long.
Carkner also etched his name into Senators playoff lore by scoring the winner in the longest game in modern franchise history, the epic triple-overtime triumph in Game 5 of the series against the Penguins. It was one more chapter in an amazing story authored by a guy that had seen only two previous games of NHL action before making it with the Senators.
"For the first few weeks there (after the Sens' season ended), I was pretty grumpy watching other teams play. But when all was said and done, my friends and family all congratulated me and helped me remember what a great season it was for me personally." - Matt Carkner
"Making the team alone was a huge success for me," said Carkner, who suited up for 87 of 88 games the Senators played in the regular and post-season. "Getting to play in front of my home town and my family and friends, scoring my first NHL goal in my first NHL game in Ottawa ... it seemed like good things happened throughout the year for me. I was pretty fortunate with injuries (and) I was healthy for most of the year.
"Getting the opportunity to play in the playoffs alone was a dream come true and the highlight of my year was definitely the triple-overtime winner."
But count on a guy who thrives on hard work to do anything but rest on his laurels.
"I was very happy with the success I had but I know that to continue on, I've got to keep working on a lot of different things," said Carkner. "Hopefully in the future, we'll have a lot more team success."
Carkner and teammate Jesse Winchester
have been confirmed as participants in the Sens Foundation's annual Walk, Roll & Run for Roger's House, presented by the Ottawa Citizen, set for June 20 at Scotiabank Place. It's a natural fit for the community-oriented Carkner.
"It's kind of handy for me to be around this area because there are a lot of great causes that I'm able to help out (with)," he said. "It's going to be a great day. You can't go wrong coming out to support this cause."For more from Sens defenceman Matt Carkner, listen to our exclusive Friday Phone Call off-season feature.