Matt Carkner had a homecoming he'll never forget.
As the Senators celebrated a 3-2 OT victory over the New York Islanders Thursday night at Scotiabank Place on the strength of Mike Fisher's winner 32 seconds into the extra period, nobody enjoyed the home opener more than Carkner, the hard-working blueliner from Winchester.
Carkner scored the first goal of his NHL career and set up Peter Regin's tally in the first. Carkner, 28, was the game's first star in front of the non-sellout crowd of 18,075.
The puck he used to beat Isles' goalie Martin Biron at 13:12 of the second with a shot off his stick is going to end up in a special place. Carkner maintained it wouldn’t have meant too much if Fisher hadn’t scored in OT.
“I thanked 'Fishy' at the end, if we didn't win, it wouldn't have felt half as good,” said Carkner. “I didn’t even know I scored, but it was an unbelievable feeling when I skated around the net and guys had their hands up in the air.
“It was a lot of work to get there. To be able to do it in my home rink, in front of family and friends from back home, it’s just a great night. I’m not the type of guy who expects goals and points. It’s just good to pitch in.”
While all eyes were on the Islanders’ John Tavares, the Senators kept him in check, with Anton Volchenkov delivering a welcome-to-the-NHL big hit on the No. 1 overall pick.
Goaltender Pascal Leclaire made 23 saves, none bigger than one on Tavares with five minutes left in the second.
“It happens every once in a while,” Leclaire said. “I just had that kick save in the second and it felt pretty good.”
The Senators needed a solid night from Leclaire. Carkner, Regin and second star Chris Neil were among the club’s best players, which won’t be enough on most nights.
“(The top players) have to be better. It’s a long season, though,” said coach Cory Clouston. “That’s what being a team is all about. If you’ve got a line or two that’s not playing well, you need the other two lines or three lines to pick it up. That’s what we’ve gotten in the last couple of games
“You can’t just count on one line or two lines. We’ve preached that all along. We need scoring to be spread out to be effective. That’s what we had.”
The Islanders came back from a 2-0 deficit on goals by Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson — including the tying goal 5:29 into the third with rookie Erik Karlsson off for interference.