Skate save, blocker save, glove save, butterfly, stack the pads, lunge, dive and crawl.
Take any method there is to stop a puck and odds are the Ottawa Senators’ Ray Emery and Florida Panthers’ Billy Thompson probably used it last night.
In stark contrast to the shoot-out-the-lights style displayed in the first game of the night at the Hull Rookie Tournament, this match constantly saw offensive rushes turned on their ear by Emery and Thompson in a Senators 3-1 win.
The sloppy play that marred the 7-6 Montreal Canadiens win over the Phoenix Coyotes was almost non-existent in the Coyotes-Senators game. The only blemishes on the night for Thompson were a breakaway goal by Brian McGrattan and a Jason Spezza slap shot from the top of the circles that squeaked under his glove hand.
Emery allowed a late goal to Peter Taticek on a tap-in at the side of the net to make it close, but an empty-netter from Spezza, his second of the game, sealed the win.
“I thought early in the game that on one or two shots he looked a little shaky, but after that he was dominant,” says Perry Pearn, the Senators’ coach at this tournament. “He was just solid all the way until the end and if it wasn’t for a little miscue defensively in our end, I’m sure he would’ve closed the door on them the rest of the way.”
“Razor’s (Emery) a great goaltender,” says Spezza. “He’s one of the best goalies I’ve played with . . . and he made some good saves for us tonight.”
Though Emery got the win, Thompson’s strong game kept his team in it until the end and earned him praise from his counterpart.
“(Thompson) was definitely playing pretty well but we were just taking it to them and we knew we had to get one at some point,” says Emery.
The lines on each team clicked immediately on the ice, making it easier for the coaches to keep a good flow to the game. Both Florida and Ottawa were able to roll their lines throughout the game, keeping players on both sides fresh.
“The balance through the whole team seemed to be really solid,” says Pearn. “I felt that there wasn’t a single line or defense pair on the ice that wasn’t solid for us.”
“They run a pretty tight practice as soon as you get in here, so I guess you have to credit that to the coaches,” says Emery.
Starring in his second Hull tournament, Spezza managed to pop two goals in the third period. Till then, he had been stymied by Thompson and the cross-bar.
“I felt like I played a good game even before I got a couple goals,” says Spezza. “But it’s always nice to get those two.”
As the game wound down, Spezza also found himself on the ice more frequently than in last year’s tournament – something he thinks shows the coaches’ increased confidence in all aspects of his game.
“Our line was put out there a lot towards the end,” says Spezza. “That’s something that maybe I couldn’t do last year . . . be out there in late situations.”
The move paid off in spades for coach Pearn and the Senators, who used Spezza’s two late goals to buffer the victory.
“I think last year, he probably was a little bit disappointed with the end result,” says Pearn. “But tonight, if he wasn’t the best player out there, he was one of them.”
McGrattan, who scored a goal and constantly was involved in scoring chances, earned player of the game honours for the Senators. Thompson, who stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced, received player of the game honours for the Panthers.