ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Rookie Curtis Lazar is not taking anything for granted as he tries to crack the regular-season roster of the Ottawa Senators.
The 19-year-old forward had his first taste of competitive NHL action as Ottawa fell 3-2 to the New York Islanders on Monday night, losing both games of a split-squad doubleheader in pre-season action.
“I felt good with my game out there,” said Lazar. “Obviously there were some nerves to start, but I got confident pretty early in there. Hopefully I can build off today and get ready for the next one.
“It is a lot different than junior hockey.”
Lazar, along with Clarke MacArthur, scored in regulation for the Senators.
Mikhail Grabovski and Josh Bailey replied for the Islanders, and Cal Clutterbuck scored the shootout winner for New York.
MacArthur opened the scoring 5:12 into the first period, scoring a power-play goal from the slot on a one-time wrist shot.
Lazar doubled Ottawa’s lead on another power play with a quick wrap-around goal, catching Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak chasing the puck behind his net at the 12:54 mark of the first period.
“I was fortunate enough to get a lucky bounce there,” Lazar said. “It was a gift, that’s what it was. (David) Legwand sort of handcuffed Halak there and all I had to do was stuff it in. That is probably one of the easiest goals I’ve ever scored.”
Despite some early pressure, Senators’ goalie Craig Anderson was sharp, turning away all ten shots from the Islanders in the first period, including a breakaway by Grabovski early in the game.
New York’s Grabovski took two penalties in the first period, one of which caused a goal. He said it is tough to jump right in to a competitive game after the off-season, but it is an opportunity to learn the system and get to know your teammates.
“It is always (hard to get back into it) after the summer,” Grabovski said. “It’s hard to just start and get going. (Every year) it is always a different system with different players. Tonight was a great chance to get to know my linemates.”
Grabovski split time between playing centre and on the wing Monday night, but said he is fine with whichever position his coach needs him to play.
“It doesn’t matter for me, I can play on the wing,” Grabovski added. “I have great teammates who can move the puck, so it is easy to play. I am going to do my best for the team and help out.”
Grabovski took advantage of his second breakaway to get the Islanders on the board, catching a long stretch pass and scoring after a quick deke on Anderson 3:10 into the second period.
With 10:09 left in the second period, both teams swapped goalies. Kevin Poulin came in for Halak, while Robin Lehner replaced Anderson.
Josh Bailey tied the game on a 2-on-1 rush, fooling Lehner with a low wrister with 2:35 left in the second period.
Halak stopped 10 shots for the Islanders and Poulin stopped 21. Anderson saved 15 for Ottawa, while Lehner turned aside 14.
Earlier in the day, Jack Skille scored the winner with 1:27 to play as the Islanders beat Ottawa 3-2 in the opener of the doubleheader.
Sebastian Collberg and Brock Nelson also scored for New York.
Alex Chiasson, part of the off-season trade that sent former Senators captain Jason Spezza to Dallas, and Cole Schneider scored Ottawa’s goals.
Notes: Both teams are back in action on Sept. 24, as New York takes on the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa takes on the Toronto Maple Leafs. … Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan was a notable absence, as he was kept out of the line-up as a precaution following an on-ice collision with teammate Kyle Turris during a Sunday intra-squad game.