Senators vie for sweep of Avalanche in Sweden
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- If the Ottawa Senators and the Colorado Avalanche can produce another game like they did on Friday night, the NHL's return to Sweden via its Global Series will be a smashing success.
The Senators' 4-3 overtime victory in front of a sellout crowd of 13,639 at the Ericsson Globe had a definitive Swedish flavor.
Prior to the contest, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested that it won't take another six years for regular-season games to return to Sweden.
"When you are launching projects like the World Cup of Hockey, you do not want to put a competitive product out there at the same time," Daly said. "We have a willing partner in the NHLPA and I suspect the frequency of European games will increase in the short term."
While challenged to fight multiple time zone changes, both teams acclimated by the time the puck was dropped for the first of the two-game set. Swedish hockey legend Peter Forsberg kicked off the night by dropping the puck for the ceremonial first faceoff and four Swedes hit the scoresheet, Ottawa's Fredrik Claesson, Erik Karlsson and Johnny Oduya, and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog.
The Senators' overtime win was a change in fortunes in the extra session, as the club entered the contest with a 1-5 record past regulation. Mark Stone's second goal of the night 59 seconds into overtime gave Ottawa the extra point.
Stone's start has is no surprise to coach Guy Boucher, who sees one quality in his winger's play for the reason for his strong start.
"Tenacity, it is all about his approach to the game," Boucher said. "There is nothing special he is doing. He brings maximum effort every shift in every game. He is a great leader and sets the tone for everyone."
Matt Duchene's debut in an Ottawa uniform was quiet. After being traded from Colorado on Sunday, his transition to a new offensive style will take time to develop. Duchene registered a minus-1 rating in the win and recorded two shots on goal. Boucher is grateful to have Duchene added to the roster and believes his learning curve will be short.
"Matt is a smart player and he will quickly learn how to play with his teammates, he is no stranger to it given his international experience," Boucher said. "If you are asking me how long it will take him to be comfortable in our system, I would say three weeks but that does not mean he cannot play well as he becomes comfortable in our structure."
In their first game with Duchene, Colorado did not lack offense as rookie center Alexander Kerfoot continues to impress. He registered a goal and an assist to raise his output to six goals and five assists in 15 games and is expected to take a more prominent role with the absence of Duchene.
One of the players acquired in the Duchene trade, defenseman Samuel Girard, made his debut and registered an assist on Kerfoot's goal. Girard, a mobile puck moving defenseman drafted in the second round by Nashville, is expected to improve the Colorado blueline quickly.
Nathan MacKinnon, who leads the team in scoring with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) was impressed by Girard's debut.
"It's awesome that he can be such a threat for us," MacKinnon said. "I'm really excited to have him."
The Senators will be the designated home team for Saturday's game, which is scheduled to start one hour earlier local time.
Daly said that the ticket demand for this series exceeded that for the 2011 Premiere Series featuring the San Jose Sharks and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Friday sellout was impressive given the competition of a World Cup Soccer qualifying home game being played by the Swedish national team simultaneously, so another sellout could be in the offing for the concluding game.
Updated November 10, 2017