OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Daniel Alfredsson got a firsthand look at how the Ottawa Senators are now struggling without him.
Alfredsson scored an empty-net goal and added an assist in his return to Ottawa, and the Detroit Red Wings beat the host Senators 4-2 on Sunday night.
Alfredsson, the former longtime captain of the Senators, wasn’t primarily responsible for Ottawa’s second straight loss and fourth consecutive at home, but he helped contribute to the continuation of his ex-team’s woes.
“The result makes it a lot sweeter,” said Alfredsson, who was named the third star. “You could tell our team was motivated and played hard. I thought we got better as the game went on. But if we would have lost, for me personally, I think it would still have been a night I’ll always remember.”
Like so many times in their previous 27 games in the post-Alfredsson era, something was missing for the Senators (10-13-4). Defensive breakdowns led to goals, and there wasn’t enough offense to compensate.
“They catch us on three line changes, and they get the odd-man rush and they don’t miss,” Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. “They’re a team that if you give them those opportunities, they’re going to take advantage of them. They took what we gave them and they made it the difference.”
The other difference was Ottawa’s power-less power play, that went 0-for-4 and recorded only four shots.
“We couldn’t really establish anything off the entries, and that’s why we couldn’t really get set up,” defenseman Erik Karlsson said. “We just had to chase the puck the whole time.”
Drew Miller scored twice, Johan Franzen added a goal, and Jonas Gustavsson made 29 saves for Detroit.
Clarke MacArthur and Mika Zibanejad had goals for Ottawa.
The Senators were 0-for-4 on the power play, and the Red Wings seemed to capitalize on every mistake.
MacArthur scored his eighth goal of the season, and Zibanejad made things interesting late, but it wasn’t enough for the Senators to improve to 3-0 against the Red Wings. Ottawa won the first two meetings in Detroit.
“It was important for our team. We had dropped the ball. The first time we played against them we played poorly,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It was important to respond here today, for Alfie and for the guys. The guys care about him, they wanted him to have a big night here.”
Alfredsson recorded his 590th and 591st points in his 596th game in Ottawa. The empty-net goal brought boos from the crowd of 20,011, but it generated plenty of relief for the Red Wings.
“It was nice kind of to seal the game there,” Alfredsson said. “They were pushing, and I was thinking, ‘Here come the Pesky Sens again.’ But we were lucky to get a good bounce there.”
The Senators were the “Pesky Sens” last year when they managed to find ways to win despite injuries to Karlsson, center Jason Spezza, goalie Craig Anderson and others. This season, they have struggled mightily.
“At the end of the day we didn’t do enough to win,” MacLean said. “Is that playing harder? Is that work ethic? Is that being smarter? It’s all of the above, I would say. But we can just categorize it I guess under one term is that we need to play harder.”
They haven’t won at home since Nov. 15.
“I think one thing goes wrong and then another thing goes wrong, and then we start to tighten up,” MacArthur said. “I don’t know if it’s shutting our brains off for periods during the game, but we made a couple mental errors.
“It’s one of those nights where it’s a good team and they capitalize.”
With all the Senators’ flaws, MacLean refused to pin any blame on Robin Lehner, who made 19 saves on 22 shots.
“We have no issue with Robin’s game. None,” MacLean said. “I don’t have any issue with that. The line changes, the opportunities they got, oh yeah we’d like one more save and one more play, but to be honest with you they were pretty good opportunities for them.”
Gustavsson, who like Alfredsson is a native of Gothenburg, Sweden, earned the victory, and countryman Lehner took the loss.
The pregame fanfare was all about Alfredsson, who spent 17 seasons with the Senators, including the final 14 as captain. A lackluster first period followed a 67-second video tribute to Alfredsson, but the 40-year-old right-winger was involved in the scoring when it began in the second.
Alfredsson gave the puck to defenseman Jakub Kindl as the Red Wings caught the Senators on an odd-man rush. With only defenseman Karlsson back, Franzen fired a shot that beat Lehner at 8:22.
It was Franzen’s seventh goal of the season and Alfredsson’s 14th assist.
Miller made it 2-0 Red Wings at 11:13, taking a pass from Tomas Tatar and sending a one-timer past a sliding Lehner.
The Senators answered just over three minutes later during a flurry around Gustavsson. Milan Michalek followed his shot to the net and knocked the puck loose. It went right to MacArthur, who broke up the shutout bid at 14:14.
Miller was the beneficiary of some messy play by the Senators on his second goal of the game. Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith stick-handled and pulled the defense to him, leaving Miller wide open to put the puck into an empty net.
Zibanejad scored with 1:21 left in the game to make it 3-2, but Alfredsson sealed the Red Wings’ win with an empty-netter, his seventh goal of the season.
The Red Wings, who won their fourth straight, haven’t lost since the Senators beat them on Nov. 23.
NOTES: Senators D Marc Methot was a late scratch for the Senators because of the flu. Ottawa coach Paul MacLean had said before the game that Jared Cowen would be a healthy scratch for a second straight game, but he replaced Methot in the lineup instead.
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