OTTAWA - Usually, when we have a 1-on-1 interview with a player after the morning skate, the guy either has a great game or a heroic moment later that night.
Rarely, if ever before, has he turned into a goat.
Coach Paul MacLean had his fourth line on the ice against Lightning stars Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis on at least a couple of occasions Tuesday night, including an early third period shift that ended with St. Louis breaking a 1-1 tie.
But the blame was not on Chris Neil, Jesse Winchester or Zenon Konopka, but Erik Karlsson, who was stripped of the puck at the Ottawa blue line a couple of seconds before St. Louis finished off a 3-on-1 by flipping a shot past Craig Andersonís on the stick side.
Karlsson, who fell when his skate found a rut in a misstep that cost the Sens an overtime loss in Washington Saturday, was spared from experiencing that sinking feeling for a second game in a row by his rallying mates.
He should buy hamburgers for Daniel Alfredsson, Nick Foligno and Zack Smith.
ERIK THE GREAT
Heís the best skater in the NHL, arguably, and has tremendous offensive skills. What canít Karlsson do? Well, right now, he canít smile without looking like a hockey player. A tough one. Alas, Karlsson is getting a replacement for the tooth he lost when hit by a puck a couple of weeks ago.
Cheaps: You should leave it out.
Karlsson: Itís ruined my image. Outside the world of hockey, itís not really a good thing to have a missing tooth. Who else has a missing tooth? Iím still 21. Itís one thing if Iím 30 or 35 and ending my career any time soon.
Cheaps: You mean like Chris Neil?
Karlsson: Heís a different story, too. He fights all the time. He might lose them again. Itís not a big chance Iím going to lose mine in a fight. If I take a puck in the face again ... it might happen, but thatís a risk Iím willing to take.
Cheaps: Youíre never going to drop the gloves?
Karlsson: If Iím going to fight a guy it wonít be against a fighter. He might still knock me out but ...
Cheaps: Maybe youíll go with Sid Crosby Dec. 16?
Karlsson: Heís way stronger than me. Iím not going to fight him either. Heíd kill me. Heís from Canada. Heís been in a couple of scraps.
Cheaps: Youíve never fought?
Karlsson: Yeah, I did back home, but itís more like one, two punches then itís a wrestling game. I usually win those, though. Iím pretty good at wrestling, even though Iím a small guy. Iím wiry.Ē
STARTS AND STOPS
It was a great night even before the opening faceoff. First Smith falls down accepting the Molson Cup award for the month of November, then ďMr. ChillĒ of Big Sugar performs the Star Spangled Banner on a harmonica before his bandmate plays O Canada on a multi-neck electric guitar in a pair of anthems unlike any before at SBP ... Karlsson saw 8:39 of ice time in the first period, but 2:55 of it came on one shift, including the full two minutes of Ottawaís first power play. That wouldnít have happened had Filip Kuba been in the lineup ... Phil Kessel was lucky to hang on to his share of the goal scoring lead. First Milan Michalek didnít get the puck as high as he should have after being set up in prime position by Nick Foligno, then Stamkos misses on one chance at the open side, and fails to bury a set up by Steve Downie off a 4-on-1.
STUFF I THINK I THUNK
First two hits of the game were Colin Greening on Ted Purcell in a coming together of Newfoundlanders and Daniel Alfredsson, who would go on to have a big goal and assist, throwing a hip check into Dana Tyrell ... Anderson not only matched a career high with his third helper of the season (on Alfredssonís goal), but also moved ahead of seven guys who have played ďoutĒ for the Senators this season in the Ďassistsí category ... Whatís it like playing centre on a line with Neil and Konopka? ďI feel pretty safe out there,Ē said Winchester. ďNeiler and Konopka are definitely pretty skilled at their trade.Ē
Gord Wilsonís month end feature ó The Goodies ó is being wasted in its current time slot, 15 minutes before the game and everyoneís arrival. Put it back to where it used to be, during a TV time out, OK? ... Anderson made a great glove save off the right-shooting Matt Gilroy, who wouldnít have been able to fire the puck that hard had it been after he broke a stick and received a left-shooting replacement from his bench ... Alfredsson would have had his seventh of the season had the puck not hopped over his stick on a pass by Michalek with the Tampa net empty.
Cheaps: You musta been looking forward to playing against your old friends on the Lightning?
Konopka: You know what I want to talk about? Thereís a guy on their team who has won a Hart Trophy, and he was a up for a Hart Trophy last year, but when people talk about the best players in the league, his name is never put in the mix.
Cheaps: Marty St. Louis.
Konopka: He should be talked about as one of them. He does everything right. Heís so fast. Creates so many chances for linemates because he tracks the puck, he causes so many turnovers.
Cheaps: How about a quick Steve Downie memory?
Konopka: Heís a piece of work. (laughing). One game he got speared, carted off, went to the hospital or observation, came back, got dressed again and went back in the game. I didnít even know that was possible.