If Milan Michalek didn't already feel at home in Ottawa, the welcome wagon yelled its approval last night.
Michalek fired a hat trick as the Senators dished up some pizza for the 17,732 on hand at Scotiabank Place last night with a 7-1 pasting of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was Michalek's first career hat trick and he became the second Senators player to score two short-handed goals in a game (Marian Hossa did it against Florida on Nov. 18, 2000).
“It's awesome. It was great to see everybody standing and clapping for me,” said Michalek. “It’s a great feeling. Hopefully, there are more goals to come. I've had a lot of games with two goals. It was sure nice to get a hat trick.”
Closing out a four-game homestand with six of a possible eight points, this was a complete victory by the Senators, highlighted by Michalek’s performance. Captain Daniel Alfredsson and winger Jarkko Ruutu chipped in with three-point efforts, while Anton Volchenkov had two. Alexei Kovalev, Nick Foligno and Alex Picard also scored for Ottawa.
Only Ryan Malone was able to beat Pascal Leclaire, who had to make some good stops in the first few minutes. That changed after Tampa’s Martin St. Louis turned over the puck to set up Kovalev’s opening goal at 4:25
Then, the floodgates opened.
“From start to finish, we were playing pretty well,” said Foligno, who scored his first of the year at 10:59 of the second to give the club a 5-0 lead. “Our power play got going toward the end. It was just a solid effort from everyone. We just took advantage of what we need to take advantage of in that game.
“We know what we’re capable of doing. On any given night, if we’re playing the way we should be by playing a smart defensive game and honing in on our opportunities, we should be able to score goals. We proved that. It can come from anyone. You saw every line scoring and that’s the type of team we are. We’ve got depth. It’s nice to get a complete win.”
You knew this was going to be a special victory. Defenceman Chris Phillips closed out the second period by dropping the gloves with Tampa’s Zenon Konopka and Ottawa held a 5-1 lead.
Michalek scored his second short-handed effort at 5:41 after coming out of the penalty box. That goal came at the end of a two-man advantage for Tampa Bay.
“Those short-handed goals were huge. He played unbelievable,” said Alfredsson. “Overall, I thought we were ready. Once we got up 3-0, then they were forced to go on the offence and we used that to make sure we got some more opportunities.
“We’ve talked about the goal scoring as well. We want more offence, but we want to play a good checking game as well. A couple of times we were able to use our speed to get behind them.”
Now, Kovalev, the former Canadiens winger, can get ready for his emotional return to Montreal tomorrow at the Bell Centre.