Double scoring threat grows on Senators blue line
Gonchar, Karlsson provide evidence they can be lethal combination on power play
|Defenceman Sergei Gonchar got his first goal in a Senators uniform — not surprisingly, on the power play — during Ottawa's 3-2 victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday night (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).|
Sergei Gonchar rifled into the back of the Toronto Maple Leafs' net on Tuesday night had to look awfully familiar to goaltenders around the National Hockey League. Even at 36 years old, the veteran blueliner still has plenty of punch behind his shot.
"It's a great feeling. It's been a few games," Gonchar admitted earlier today, about 15 hours after his first goal in an Ottawa uniform helped propel the Senators to a 3-2 victory at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. "But at the same time, the most important thing is that we won a game, so it's even more special to me."
What the Senators and their fans had to like even more came an little more than two minutes later, when Erik Karlsson unloaded a rocket of a shot from the opposite point for another power-play goal. It's a lethal combination that Ottawa management no doubt envisioned when Gonchar signed as a free-agent with the team back in July. But on the power play, at least, that double threat hadn't shown itself so visibly until last night.
"It was one of the first times we actually had them on their one-timing sides and they showed what they can do, get the puck off quick," said Senators goaltender Brian Elliott. "Hopefully, we’ll keep using that and we know we have a bunch of different options with our power play. We’ve got a ton of talented guys out there. On any given night, somebody can do the damage and last night, it was those two."
Added head coach Cory Clouston: "We needed them to contribute. They're not always going to score every night but the best-case scenario is if you're struggling a little bit up front, your defence chips in offensively and vice versa. You can't always rely on certain areas (like that) to score but you need it at certain times and last night, it helped us get the win."
Gonchar has talked often this season about the necessity for a "shooting mentality" on the power play and the victory in Toronto provided clear evidence of the benefits that can bring.
"We recognized we’re not shooting the puck enough," said Gonchar, who now ranks No. 2 in team scoring (1-7-8) behind Alfredsson. "So having two guys shooting one-timers, it gives you more chances and more opportunities. It worked out well, so now we just have to make sure we’re doing it again and again."
Said Alfredsson: "His shot and Erik's, too ... having that threat from the back end is important to have a good power play, because that's going to open things up down low."
Around the boards
Alfredsson credited the team's training staff with playing a huge role in ensuring he was good to go Tuesday night in Toronto. "I wouldn't have been able to play if it wasn't for them," said the captain, who had suffered a lower-body injury in practice on Monday. They always do a good job looking after us. It was a matter of if there was enough time to get it to where I wanted it to be going into the game. After the pre-game skate, I felt good in the warmup and I was excited to play." ... Elliott, who is likely in line for another start against the New York Islanders on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place, has played a big hand in the Senators' turnaround in recent games in Clouston's eyes. "Brian's played very well and he's given us a chance to get our feet back under us when we have struggled at times in a game," he said. "He's been there for us and he's been a real big part of how we've started to turn things around." ... Defenceman Filip Kuba (broken leg) "skated hard this morning" during an optional practice at the Bell Sensplex, Clouston said, and might be ready to return to the lineup by Saturday. "He's going to practise tomorrow and we'll kind of play it by ear," said Clouston. "We hope he is (playing Saturday), but we're not going to push him if he's not quite ready."