Kuba’s back with a bang

DON BRENNAN, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

SUNRISE, Fla. — As any one of the 7,000 fans or so actually in attendance surely noticed, it didn’t take Filip Kuba long to make an impact in his return to the Senators lineup.

The veteran defenceman even managed to help the ailing Ottawa power play.

In his first game back after missing eight with a groin injury, Kuba assisted on two goals and was a plus-2 as the Senators dumped the Florida Panthers 4-3 last night at BankAtlantic Center.

Kuba said he felt “rusty” and that it was “like the beginning of the season for me.”

“It wasn’t easy to jump in,” said Kuba. “We won the game, that’s the important thing. The more playing time I get, the more comfortable I’ll get.”

While the Senators converted their one and only power play of the night, it was the Ottawa “killers” who shone brightest. The Panthers were allowed only one goal on seven power plays.

“I thought we battled hard,” said coach Cory Clouston. “When you have to kill that many times, it’s tough on guys. It’s really hard to get momentum. I thought each time we killed, two or three shifts later we ended up gaining the momentum back, but the next thing you know we were in the box.”

Asked if his players were guilty of lacking discipline, Clouston responded with a curt “no.” So how do you explain seven power plays?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t explain it. I’m not saying some of ours weren’t calls, but I’ll tell you what, there were opportunities we felt could have easily given us a couple more power plays.”

Goalie Brian Elliott played the final 40 minutes after replacing starter Pascal Leclaire, who stopped 9-of-10 shots before feeling ill in his first game back from the flu.

Clouston said Leclaire actually complained of feeling “dizzy” during a first-period TV time out, and added he was a “gamer” to stay in until the intermission. Elliott was solid, stopping 26 of the 28 pucks that came his way.

“I try to be ready every game, like you’re playing,” said Elliott. “When you’re taking it easy, then you get the opportunity to jump in, you can mess it up. You’ve just got to be ready all the time.”

The Senators received a scare with 3:36 left in the third when steady defenceman Anton Volchenkov left the ice favouring his right elbow after a collision at the Ottawa net. The extent of the damage was unknown last night.

Goals by Nick Foligno and Jarkko Ruutu just 38 seconds apart late in the second broke a 2-2 tie and put the Senators in position to claim their third win in five games, none of which they have walked away from without a point.

Foligno’s goal, his third of the season, originally looked like it would be Jason Spezza’s first. But the pass to the high slot deflected off Bryan McCabe, not the lumber held by Spezza.

Off the next faceoff, Shean Donovan engaged the much younger (12 years) Kenndal McArdle in a scrap. If the Florida rookie was trying to ignite his team, the plan backfired. With their linemate in the box, Chris Kelly and Ruutu spun some magic, with the latter finishing off the play for his third of the season.

Both of the quick goals were assisted by Chris Campoli who, while playing with Kuba instead of Erik Karlsson as his partner, was also a plus-3.

Entering the night, the Senators’ power play was ranked 29th in the NHL.

Working the other point on the first unit in place of the demoted Karlsson was Daniel Alfredsson, who padded his team-leading totals not only by assisting on the Fisher goal, but by converting a setup from Kuba in the second period.

“We didn’t play great today, but obviously penalty killing and goaltending was the difference for us,” said Alfredsson. “We made sure Elliott got a lot of work by taking a lot of penalties early on. We got him warm, and he played outstanding.”

The Senators wrap up their Florida swing when they drop in on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.


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