OTTAWA – Veteran Daniel Alfredsson and rookie David Rundblad may be at opposite ends of their National Hockey League careers, but the Swedish countrymen suffered the same pre-game jitters before the Ottawa Senators’ home opener.
For Rundblad, a 21-year old defenceman, it was his first NHL game. Alfredsson, the 38-year old face of the Senators, was playing his 1,059th game but the first meaningful one at home since he since was shut down early last February with back troubles.
He had surgery in the off season and came back strong. Through his first two games he had two goals and an assist. Tuesday he scored Ottawa’s third straight shootout goal as the Senators beat the Wild 4-3, capping a comeback after they fell behind 3-1 in the third period.
“There was nerves…good nerves though, and excitement,” Alfredsson said.
“We had the red carpet before the game, the crowd was into it and there was a good atmosphere all around.”
Alfredsson got the loudest cheer during the pre-game introductions and the crowd was chanting “Alfie! Alfie!” with nine minutes to play, almost in anticipation that their captain was going to lead them to victory.
After Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza beat Niklas Backstrom with their shootout attempts, Alfredsson blew the roof of the place when he ended the game to give the Senators their first win of the season.
“I was going to deke but I thought he was too far in so I was able to get a shot past him,” the captain said.
“I thought it was an exciting game with a fast pace and kind of had everything.”
Alfredsson had more than 21 minutes of ice time while Rundblad was one second shy of 21 minutes. Both finished the game with a minus-one rating, but played better than that statistic would indicate.
“Before the game I was nervous but after the first shift I felt good. It was fun to play and I was lucky that my first shift was on the power play so it was easier for me to get the feel. I think I played pretty good,” Rundblad said.
“I think we played pretty good the whole game and we were creating scoring chances almost every shift.”
Rundblad had one of those scoring chances as he found himself streaking down the right side with eight minutes to play before getting off a shot that Backstrom smothered in his equipment.
“I surprised to get the puck there, but hopefully next time I score,” the young blue-liner said.
Alfredsson said if Tuesday happens to be his last home opener, he was pleased with how things played out.
“It felt really good, especially the first two periods. I thought our line played extremely well and we should have had a couple of goals,” he said. “We were minus-one but we should have been plus-two or three.”