They unlocked a few keys to success away from the friendly confines of Scotiabank Place.
Now the Ottawa Senators hope to take a few more steps in the right direction in front of the home folks this week.
On the heels of a four-game road trip that produced five points in the standings and -- perhaps more importantly -- noticeably tighter defensive play, the Senators return to Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night to face the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200). Then the Philadelphia Flyers arrive hit town on Thursday (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
After dropping the opener of the trip in Toronto, the Senators notched back-to-back victories against the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Saturday night in shootout. While the five points were a boost to a team that had lost four straight beforehand, it's how they were gained that matters more.
"I think it was a big trip for us, to be honest," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
. "We started playing a lot better the last three games on the trip. We played solid and we showed signs of being a real consistent team and giving ourselves a chance to win every night. I really like the way we played, so hopefully we can continue that at home with these two games."
Certainly, it was a step up from the play that produced a 1-4-0 record during a lengthy October homestand. The Senators surrendered an early goal in the last three of those games and couldn't recover, playing tentatively at times. But that all changed on the road trip.
"We weren't playing good hockey here and we were looking forward to getting on the road and sorting some things out," said centre Jason Spezza
. "I think we've come back with a better focus and a better understanding of where we need to be as a team and what we have to do to be successful.
"Now we've got to worry about playing that simple game on home ice and not get worried if we let in a goal or two early. We didn't panic on the road and we can't have that panic at home, either."
For the Senators, the road success started right in front of goaltender Alex Auld
, who'll make a fifth straight start tomorrow night.
"The trip was good for us to get that base and find an identity in our own end," said Auld. "I think we've been a lot more consistent with that and that's great."
Head coach Craig Hartsburg, naturally, wants to see more of that on home ice.
"We played well on the road, we had some success there," he said. "Now let's have that mindset here. It doesn't matter where we play or who we play, we've got to play the right way and play the game we know will give us a chance for success in this building."
Around the boards
Tuesday's game is Canadian Forces Appreciation Night, which is dedicated to troops currently deployed or having just returned from overseas missions. Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for the game ... Only 1,750 tickets are left for Thursday's visit by the Flyers.