By Michael Caples –
DETROIT - They say that to win a hockey game, you have to play a full 60 minutes.
Yet the Senators may have had this one wrapped up in the first 14:14.
That’s how long it took the visitors to beat Jimmy Howard three times, forcing the Red Wings to remove their starting goaltender and replace him with Jonas Gustavsson.
Ottawa ended up beating the Red Wings 6-1 Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Todd Bertuzzi scored the lone goal for Detroit, while Gustavsson allowed three goals in replacement duty.
“Well obviously we weren’t expecting it,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we were going to have a good night, I thought it was going to be real good hockey. Their team came prepared to play and skated us into the ground. We didn’t play well. We couldn’t keep them out of our net, we didn’t skate good, and turned tons of pucks over. In the end, it didn’t look like a very good team tonight.”
The game was Daniel Alfredssson’s first against the team he spent his first 17 NHL seasons with before leaving this past offseason.
“It was obviously a different game today, the way it turned out, but it didn’t feel too crazy,” Alfredsson said. “Warm-up was what it was, and then once the game’s going, you’re really into it, and it’s unfortunate the way it was, it didn’t turn into a good battle, which I expected.”
The former captain of the Senators said he was more disappointed for a team loss, rather than for a frustrating night against his old club.
“It’s a game. I think it’s a disappointing for us as a team to lose like we did at home tonight. I can’t say that this game, I would have loved to win, no question, but I think the big thing for us is that we played a good game against San Jose, and then we took a step back. We have to get back with a good effort on Saturday and move in the right direction here.”
Jason Spezza had a pair of goals for the Senators, while Eric Gryba, Bobby Ryan and Jared Cowen all found the back of the net, as well.
The game also marked the return of defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who has been out since taking a hit from Colorado’s Cody McLeod on Oct. 17 that resulted in a five-game suspension. Kronwall played for 21:36 and was -1 on the night.
“I thought tonight was too much watching the other team playing,” Kronwall said. “Starting with myself, I know I have to be better, and I think a lot of guys in here feel the same way. Each and every one, get a few percentages better, and that way we can help each other and be a better team.”
The loss drops the Red Wings’ record to 6-4-1 on the season, while Ottawa – now in the same division as Detroit – improves to 4-3-2.
They will have time to regroup; the Wings don’t return to action until Saturday, when they host the New York Rangers.
“You just have to flush it out,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “There’s nothing else you can do. We’re going to come back here, have a good practice and regroup for Saturday.”
Yet Babcock wants his team to remember it for a while.
“We have an off-day tomorrow, so I was just talking about whether we should have an off-day tomorrow or not,” the Wings coach said. “It’s one of those things, I don’t think you forget this very easy. You shouldn’t forget it, either. That’s embarrassing to play the way we did.”
Gryba started the scoring 5:46 into the opening period, firing a wrist shot through a crowd and past Howard.
Spezza followed with his first goal of the night five minutes after Gryba’s, once again with a shot from the outside that beat a screened Howard.
Ryan ended Howard’s night at the 14:14 mark of the first period, on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat Howard to the top corner.
Gustavsson made one save in the first period, allowing the Red Wings to pull within two on Bertuzzi’s third goal of the season. The Red Wings forward grabbed a bouncing puck behind the Ottawa net, and scored on a wraparound play that goaltender Craig Anderson never saw coming.
Yet that was the closest the Red Wings would come on the scoresheet, as Spezza scored the lone goal of the second period. The new captain of the Senators scored after his initial shot went well wide of the Red Wings’ goal, yet the puck bounced right back to his stick for a second try.
Cowen and Ryan added third-period goals for Ottawa.