WINNIPEG – Despite what head coach Paul MacLean thought was a messy season-opener, his Ottawa Senators cleaned up with a road win in Winnipeg.
Erik Karlsson had a goal and two assists as the Senators spoiled the Jets’ home opener with a 4-1 victory Saturday afternoon.
“I thought the game was played a little bit like a dog’s breakfast … in the first and second period,”MacLean said.
“And third period, I thought we were able to get control of the game a little bit and establish a little bit more of our game.”
Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris and Chris Neil, with the game-winner in the second period, scored Ottawa’s other goals.
Dustin Byfuglien scored one for the Jets, whose fans didn’t miss a beat from last season with loud cheers and chants of“Go Jets Go”that began during warm-up.
Craig Anderson stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced in net for the Senators, while Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec faced 37 shots in front of a sellout crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre.
“I think I didn’t play really well today, didn’t feel really good out there, but obviously it feels nice to contribute something,”Karlsson said.
“Getting the goal on the power play there is going to be good for us and hopefully we can build on this.”
Karlsson said he sensed players were a bit nervous before their first game back from the NHL lockout, but they started with a strong effort.
“I think the pace slowed down a little bit and it probably wasn’t the best-played game from anyone, but we’ve just got to continue here and try to get the feeling back as quick as possible,”he said.
He also couldn’t help but notice the loud crowd in the early goings.
Winnipeg fans gained a reputation of being one of the loudest crowds in the league last season as they welcomed back an NHL squad after a 15-year absence. Games are sold out for three years and a waiting list is capped at 8,000 hopefuls.
The team soaked up the adoration at home last season, posting a 23-13-5 on home ice and overall 37-35-10 (84 points) mark.
Fans had something to cheer about early in the second season’s debut as the Jets took advantage of Ottawa’s first penalty, a boarding call on Neil for sending Winnipeg defenceman Mark Stuart into the boards near the Jets’net.
Thirty seconds later, Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Tobias Enstrom and sent the puck past Anderson at 6:00 of the first period for the 1-0 lead.
Byfuglien tied for second in league scoring last season for defencemen with 12 goals and 53 points in 66 games.
Jets coach Claude Noel said some players showed rust from not playing during the lockout, but Byfuglien wasn’t one of them.
“I thought Buff was responsible, I thought he tried to make a difference in the game,”Noel said.
“I thought that he played a more balanced game, I thought he used his weight to his advantage, knocking people off the puck and was dangerous. So I thought he was probably our best player.”
Despite the loss, Byfuglien feels his team got off to a good start.
“We had things going our way and did the simple things and kept the pace up pretty well,”he said.“We quit getting the bounces in the second and third and let them get ahead.
“At times I felt it was sloppy. It’s something where we’re going to have to keep working and playing as a group. It’s only one game.”
Michalek evened things up with 3:58 left in the opening period after Jets defenceman Paul Postma botched a clearing attempt.
The puck went to Sens defenceman Patrick Wiercioch at the point, who sent it toward the net for Michalek to poke it between Pavelec’s legs.
Neil gave Ottawa the go-ahead goal with 2:58 left in the second period after the Jets couldn’t clear a loose puck in their crease.
Karlsson got his team’s power-play marker after Jets captain Andrew Ladd was in the penalty box for slashing. Last year’s Norris Trophy winner blasted a shot from the point past a screened Pavelec a minute into the man advantage that began at 11:15.
Turris stretched the lead to 4-1 when he went down the right wing and beat Pavelec on the stick side at 17:50.
The Sens outshot the Jets 37-28. The Jets finished 1-for-6 with the man advantage and Ottawa was 1-for-2.
“The only thing we did was take too many penalties and I think that’s part of not having the full training camp,”MacLean said.
But he noted the good play of his penalty killers, especially in the third, and Anderson.
Ottawa was 21-14-6 on the road last season and 41-31-10 overall.
Notes: Daniel Alfredsson is the longest-serving captain in NHL, entering his 13 consecutive season wearing the C for the Senators…All concession food and drinks were 50 per cent off for the game as a thank-you gesture for fans.