In a few days time, Daniel Alfredsson will be captain of one of the NHL’s two all-star teams and in charge of picking a winning squad in that sure-to-be contentious match.
Consider Monday night to be Jonathan Quick’s audition – and Mr. DeMille, he looks ready for his close-up.
Quick, the Los Angeles Kings’ goaltender, kept the Ottawa Senators off the board for more than 48 minutes last night, long enough for his team to coast to a 4-1 victory over the visiting Senators before an announced sellout crowd of 18,118 at the Staples Centre.
For the Senators, the defeat was their second in a row in southern California, after losing to the Anaheim Ducks Saturday afternoon. They’ll complete their six-game road trip with a game Tuesday night in Phoenix against the Coyotes.
L.A. hasn’t been all that kind to the Senators over the years – Ottawa has won just once in 13 previous visits, with the last victory coming more than 11 years ago, in January of 2000. But it wasn’t the Anze Kopitars and Mike Richardses that did in the Sens last night – it was coach Darryl Sutter’s foot soldiers, especially Kyle Clifford, who recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick, a goal, an assist to go with a first-period fight against Ottawa’s Zenon Konopka.
Clifford is from Ayr, Ont., just celebrated his 21st birthday last week and was a one-man wrecking crew last night, knocking Chris Neil down in a massive collision outside the Ottawa blue line with under seven minutes to go that rocked the Ottawa rough guy. Clifford was also in the penalty box for high-sticking when Alfredsson broke Quick’s shutout attempt in the third period, the Ottawa captain converting a one-timer from the high slot off a feed from defenceman Erik Karlsson.
The game featured a controversial moment in the second period, when Trevor Lewis was awarded a penalty shot by referee Tim Peel. Peel ruled that Senators defenceman Chris Phillips closed his hand on the puck in the goal crease, when replays showed all he did was brush it away from the goal line. Lewis scored on a nicely executed deke for just his second goal of the season, and it knocked goaltender Craig Anderson, starting his 13th consecutive game, out of the box after 40 minutes. Back-up Alex Auld came in and finished up.
The Kings also received goals from defencemen Willie Mitchell and Jack Johnson, breaking loose offensively after being limited to a single goal in three of the last four games. The Kings under Sutter are not exactly an offensive juggernaut, but they carried the play in the second period last night, managing three goals on 20 shots to pull away. L.A. has lost just twice in regulation since Sutter replaced Terry Murray, the brother of Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray, behind the Kings’ bench back in December.
As for the Senators, they talked before the game of not slipping into a losing skid because that’s not what good teams do. The penalty shot call essentially put the Senators away for good, but they didn’t seem to have their legs even before then.