For more than 50 minutes last night, Martin Gerber looked like he had quelled any goaltending controversy.
The final 10 minutes or so of last night's 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings only gave Sens fans more to discuss.
Detroit's Johan Franzen erased the Senators' hard-earned 2-1 lead with a pair of goals, one from each faceoff circle, the first a wrister to the top corner at 11:16 of the third and then, on what was certainly an unlucky break for Gerber, a skipper that caught his stick and found the inside of the right post with just 1:17 left in the game.
"It was an unlucky bounce at the end. We didn't really get a break there," said Gerber, who had played spectacularly for much of the game and was a big reason why the Senators were in a position to win in the third. "It looked like an easy shot, but it bounced twice and the last bounce came up my stick."
"You don't see many shots skip like that," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg. "For 59 minutes, he kept us in the game. That's the only thing I can say. If he doesn't play the way he did, at that point it doesn't matter."
Gerber struggled in the Senators' 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Sweden while Alex Auld played solidly in a win the following day. There was debate, if not in the Senators camp, about who to start last night.
For most of the night, the Senators, playing without injured captain Daniel Alfredsson, had done a good job of keeping Detroit's chances to a minimum while the Wings enjoyed a huge advantage in territorial play.
A 5-on-3 power-play goal by Ottawa's Alexandre Picard and a great solo effort by Nick Foligno sandwiched around a goal by Detroit's Valtteri Filppula gave the Senators a 2-1 lead going into the third. Gerber's strong play early, some outstanding penalty killing -- the Senators have only given up one power-play goal this season in 19 short-handed situations -- and that goal by Picard, the first for the Gatineau native in a Senators uniform, looked like they might be enough for the Senators in their home opener against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
But the Wings slowly ratcheted up the tempo in the third and the Senators struggled to maintain the pace.
Both of Franzen's goals came off transition plays where the Wings regrouped after regaining the puck and hit the blue line with speed.
"They shot two pucks getting close to inside the dots and that is a team that can shoot the puck," said Hartsburg. "(The Wings) can unnerve you and we didn't show a lot of poise," he said.
"We had them where we wanted them. It was just a matter of hanging onto the puck and we didn't do that," said Foligno, who had split a pair of Wings for a spectacular goal late in the second for the Senators' 2-1 lead. "They're a great team. They didn't win last year for no reason. They never throw the puck away and we can learn from that."
Hartsburg said he will continue in practice to stress playing with poise and protecting the puck, which has become his mantra.
Franzen's first goal was a perfect example of the Wings' vaunted transition game, started by Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom in the neutral zone during a sloppy change by the Senators. The puck went up to Henrik Zetterberg and then to Franzen, who rifled a shot over Gerber's left shoulder.
With less than two minutes to go and the Senators looking like they would at least get a point, Franzen entered the Ottawa zone on the right wing this time and let go a shot through Senators defenceman Filip Kuba from inside the circle. The puck skipped twice and deflected off Gerber's stick. A bad break? For sure. Stoppable? It looked like it.
Judging by the mix of cheers and boos from the crowd when Gerber was announced as a star as selected by the Team 1200, many thought he should have turned it aside.
"You definitely can't blame that one on Gerbs," Foligno said.
Some will, though. With no game until Friday's tilt against Phoenix, goaltending will be a hot topic again.