Will a "players only" meeting in Washington go down as the Senators' great, season-saving turning point?
Or was it just all talk?
A chance to build on a decent performance against the Capitals -- and put a halt to what is already their worst start in 15 years -- presents itself Thursday when the Senators host the undefeated Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place.
The Senators are 0-2-1 after earning a point in a 3-2 overtime loss Monday at the Verizon Center, where the Caps lost just five times in regulation last season. That performance followed a players' powwow organized by veterans to discuss Ottawa's first two stinkers.
"We knew we needed to address how we played," Jason Spezza said Wednesday. "They were both real poor efforts."
No one is arguing.
The Senators will have captain Daniel Alfredsson in the lineup against the 'Canes, who are 2-0 after a couple of one-goal victories over Minnesota in Helsinki. Alfredsson left the Washington affair late in the third period, raising concerns of his availability for the second home game of the season.
"I think I took a shot in the back of my leg in Game 1," Alfredsson said of the "muscle" injury. "The bruise and the tightness around it are probably what caused it. We were just being cautious with it, making sure it doesn't get worse. It's been feeling good the last couple of days."
Coach Cory Clouston said Brian Elliott will make his first start in goal, either against the Hurricanes or Saturday in Montreal. Pascal Leclaire played well in the first three games, but put a knot in Clouston's shorts with the way he allowed Alex Ovechkin's soft wrist shot to slip between his legs 32 seconds from a shootout.
Otherwise, Clouston is feeling more comfortable than he did after the loses to Buffalo and Toronto.
"First two, no," he said when asked if the effort level was where it should be. "Last game I thought our effort was excellent. I thought we did a lot of good things. According to our numbers, we outchanced them 17-12. Only two or three times did we give up a dangerous rush at our blue line. Our defence was much, much better as a unit. We didn't give up near as many chances, near as many shots."
What the Senators have to get going immediately is their power play, which, at 0-for-14, ranks last in the NHL. Clouston spent 25 minutes working on the special teams unit during Wednesday's practice, with the specific instructions of creating more net pressure.
"I thought last game there were definitely more positives (on the power play)," he said. "We broke out a lot easier, we entered the zone a lot easier and we had more puck possession. We just didn't bury our chances."
Spezza thinks the power play is close to clicking.
"Power play is one of those finicky things that once a couple of cheap ones go in, all of a sudden you look like you're amazing and you're passing the puck all around," he said. "But it is an area we have to focus on. Now there's not a lot of scoring chances in the league, and when you get power plays, you've got to be able to put them in."
Part of the problem is the adjustment to a new quarterback. Signed to bolster the power play, Sergei Gonchar is still getting used to his new playmates and working the left side instead of the right.
"I don't think it's not working, I think it's the beginning of the season and I'm a new addition to the power play, so maybe we don't know each other as well as we could have if I had been here for a while," Gonchar said. "I guess that's why we have to simplify and shoot it, do simple things.
"The timing of it, when you're under pressure, is so important. It's the beginning of the season, and on a split-second play, you're missing that a little bit. It's not only me being on the other side, which maybe I need a little time to adjust, but another thing is I do things a little differently and the guys have to move accordingly."
Meanwhile, the Senators are in last place -- and still feeling okay about themselves.
"We know we have a good team," said Leclaire. "There's no problem (with that). I think a lot of people push the panic button right away, after the first couple of games, but these things happen. Every team goes through rough patches, and it might happen again during the season. It's how you get out of them. Going to Washington and playing against a great team and putting in a good effort like that is a good sign."