Through their first two games, the Ottawa Senators have managed a split and will have their work cut out for them Sunday night when a strong division rival comes visiting.
Coming off a 5-2 win against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, the Senators will welcome in the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have appeared in three of the past four Stanley Cup Finals.
Though Ottawa won two of three matches from the Lightning last season, including the last pair, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper’s squad has had the advantage in the series.
Since the 2016 campaign opened, Tampa Bay holds a 14-8-0 record against its Atlantic Division foe, though the Lightning are just 22-37-0 in 59 career games playing in Canada’s capital.
Both clubs were in action Saturday in the opening match of their first back-to-back sets this season.
The Senators got two goals and an assist from Jakob Chychrun and a pair of tallies from Brady Tkachuk in a one-sided affair.
The Senators were 3-for-5 on the power play and allowed just one Philadelphia goal on six man-advantage chances.
“Everybody contributed,” team captain Tkachuk said. “There’s a lot of players that played awesome tonight and that’s kind of what we needed for us as a team. And of course, it helped with the atmosphere that the fans provided.
“We’re going to need that all year.”
In his team’s season-opening 5-3 loss Wednesday night to the Carolina Hurricanes, coach D.J. Smith expressed concern over allowing six power plays.
“Six penalties is too many,” Smith said. “On the road, you can take no more than three and it takes every chance you have to come back.”
On Saturday, Ottawa’s Josh Norris missed his second game, but right winger Zack MacEwen was in the lineup against his former club after missing the season opener.
Tampa Bay had a rough night in the Motor City, losing 6-4 to the Detroit Red Wings in their home opener in the first division meeting for both squads.
In the back-and-forth contest, the Lightning saw captain Steven Stamkos score twice and add an assist, defenseman Victor Hedman add a goal and two assists, and Brandon Hagel notch a goal and an assist.
But the biggest problem was keeping the first five Detroit goals from going in. Defenseman Moritz Seider put the game away with an empty-net marker in the last second.
Making his second start, Lightning goaltender Jonas Johansson (1-1-0) surrendered five goals on 41 shots in losing for the first time with his new team.
Defensive breakdowns were also a problem, as coach Jon Cooper’s rearguard allowed a pair of two-on-zero breakaways, though only one — Alex DeBrincat’s — found the net.
The Wings outshot the visitors 42-26.
“You’d never see us do this in a playoff game, what we did tonight,” Cooper said. “When you’re giving the opponent everything we gave them tonight. I mean, it’s nearly impossible to win a hockey game. Just the amount of turnovers and odd-man rushes we gave up.
“We’ll be better, there’s no doubt. We’ve had some pretty good success in this league. … But we’ll definitely have to be better tomorrow night if we want to change the result.”
Sunday will also mark Cooper’s 800th career NHL game behind the bench.