TORONTO – Two days, two games, two deficits, two rallies.
But, in the end, two losses for Ottawa Senators goaltender Alex Auld. Auld, who’s trying to challenge for the starting job in Ottawa, started back-to-back games against the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and Saturday – a pair of teams that had a combined 4-7-3 record – as Martin Gerber was sidelined with a lower body injury. (Brian Elliot backed up Auld on Saturday night but Gerber’s injury isn’t thought to be serious.)
Often, that kind of result would relegate the backup goalie to a long stint at the end of the bench. But nobody on the Senators off to a tepid 2-5-1 start to the 2008-09 NHL season is pointing fingers at Auld.
Instead, they’re praising him.
“Alex played really well for us,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson after a 3-2 loss to the host Maple Leafs on Saturday night, a game in which Auld stopped 35 shots including 20 of 21 in the first period.
Added Sens coach Craig Hartsburg: “(Auld) was outstanding. In the first period alone, he gave us a chance to be in the game. He made a lot of saves and played with a lot of composure I thought he was real good.”
The Leafs made it 2-0 in the second period before the Senators’ offence woke up, but Ottawa wasn’t able to draw even and was forced to play catch-up all game.
“You have to give (the Maple Leafs) credit, they came out really hard,” said Auld, a 27-year-old native of Thunder Bay, Ont. “Now we’ve got to find a way to play for 60 minutes We need to play a complete game, too.”
The story was similar on Friday night as Ottawa fell behind the visiting Ducks 4-0 before rallying with three goals in the third period to fall just short.
“We’ll be fine,” Auld said. “We’ve shown in spurts, but it’s not enough.
“We just have to stay on our program, stay on our plan. Our coach is telling us to stay the course and it’s important for us to have patience.”
Auld should know a thing or two about patience. Drafted 40th overall in 1999 by the Florida Panthers, he has played for five NHL teams since 2005: the Vancouver Canucks, Florida, Phoenix Coyotes, Boston Bruins and now Ottawa. Dealt to the Canucks in 2001 before he played an NHL game, Auld was Vancouver’s starter in 2005-06 and compiled a 33-26-0 record that season with a 2.94 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
Then he was traded back to Florida in the summer of 2006 as part of the Roberto Luongo-for-Todd Bertuzzi deal and was the Panthers’ No. 2 stopper in 2006-07 before bouncing to Phoenix and Boston in 2007-08. He signed as a free agent with Ottawa in the off-season, and carries a career NHL record of 59-59-2.
He’s hoping to improve on that mark in Ottawa this season, but knows the team has to turn things around first.
“We’ve had games where a couple guys have had great efforts, but it’s not enough if you don’t have everybody going,” said Auld, who could’ve very well been talking about himself. “There’s been a lot of talk, now we have to start delivering a little more.”