|With Sunday's win over the Anaheim Ducks, goaltender Brian Elliott and the Senators got a needed confidence boost before they returned home (Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images).
From California sunshine into winter's icy grip ... yes, it's a transition the Ottawa Senators will happily make right about now.
But as the Senators return home today from a road trip that had more than its share of bumps, they believe Sunday's 4-3 shootout triumph over the Anaheim Ducks offers a building point toward better things during the rest of what figures to be a hectic December.
"You can't say enough about that, especially going back (home)," Senators goaltender Brian Elliott said about the shot of confidence he and his teammates gained by outlasting the Ducks. "This is kind of an end to the first chapter of the year, getting this road trip over with. Now we're going back home and we're going to be playing a lot of games every other night, so it's going to be another big test."
At least the next step, which comes Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), will occur in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Place. Before heading out west, the Senators reeled off five straight wins on home ice, where they're an Eastern Conference-best 10-3-3 so far this season.
No wonder, then, that head coach Cory Clouston wants to keep a trip that produced a 1-3-1 record in the proper perspective, especially with two of the Senators' three games this week scheduled for Scotiabank Place.
"We could have easily been .500 (on the trip) but again, it’s a process and we have to get better," Clouston said after Sunday's win. "We’re not going to look at the whole five games. We’re going to look at tonight’s game and we’re going to build off that. We’re happy with tonight’s game."
The game in Anaheim had plenty of potential to be a heartbreaker. Three times, the Senators grabbed one-goal leads, only to see the Ducks equal matters each time less than a minute later. But Ottawa persevered and earned two vital points when Alex Kovalev and Daniel Alfredsson
produced huge goals in the game-deciding shootout.
"You can't say enough about that, especially going back (home). This is kind of an end to the first chapter of the year, getting this road trip over with. Now we're going back home and we're going to be playing a lot of games every other night, so it's going to be another big test." - Brian Elliott
"When you can play as hard as we did tonight and show as much character as we did, you learn a lot ," Clouston said afterward. "Confidence is a funny thing – when it goes (away), it’s hard to get back. Each time we scored and then they scored (quickly), I thought we responded properly and kept working hard and, fortunately, we were rewarded for it."
That almost might sum up the night for Elliott, who struggled on the road trip and could easily have folded for the night when Ryan Getzlaf's first-period shot hit a stanchion on the side glass, wildly changed direction and trickled past Elliott as he tried to retrieve it. But the goaltender rebounded strongly to backstop the Senators' victory.
"I felt bad for Brian," Clouston said. " He’d made a couple of nice saves before that and then to have something like that go in … fortunately, it didn’t cost us the win, and I thought he showed a lot of character in not letting that crush him. He’s had a tough time the last couple of games, but he showed what he’s all about (in rebounding from it)."
Said Elliott: "A bad bounce, but what are you going to do? That's when you've got to tell yourself that you're playing well and don't worry about that. We're going to get it back."Around the boards
The Senators (14-10-4) return home standing seventh in the Eastern Conference and third (behind the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres) in the Northeast Division ... Fewer than 750 tickets remain for the Canadiens' first visit of the season to Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night, while 4,000 are still available for Saturday's matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), including 350 in the Coke Zero Zone from $17.