OTTAWA — After two days of having to answer questions about himself, Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza was more than happy to talk about a teammate Thursday night.
In this case, it was defenseman John Klingberg, whose strong solo effort broke a 3-3 tie with 9:09 left in the third as the Stars went on to beat the Ottawa Senators 6-3 at Canadian Tire Centre.
“Watch this kid,” said Spezza, who was held pointless in his first game back to Ottawa, where he spent 12 seasons before having his request to be traded granted last summer. “He’s going to be a special player. It’s hockey sense. His hockey sense is elite. He’s always in the right spot. He’s going to hide in Dallas for a few years, but people are going to find out about him.”
Playing in just his 34th NHL game, Klingberg stripped the puck from Senators winger Mike Hoffman and raced down ice before tucking a shot over the shoulder of goalie Robin Lehner.
“I saw I had a lot of ice to skate and I wanted to go five-hole first,” Klingberg said of his seventh of the season, “but I saw their D-man came back pretty fast so I just tried to go high first corner and got a good goal there.”
While Klingberg also had an assist, he was one of four Stars to have a multi-point game. Defenseman Trevor Daley scored a short-handed empty-net goal in the final minute, to go along with his two assists, while winger Jamie Benn scored twice, including his own short-handed empty-net goal in the final minute. Center Colton Sceviour had a goal and
an assist, while winger Ales Hemsky rounded out the Dallas scoring.
Winger Bobby Ryan led the Senators with a goal and an assist, while center Mika Zibanejad and winger Alex Chiasson had the other Senators goals.
Lehner made 37 saves and Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots.
Chiasson, who was part of the package the Senators received for Spezza, ended a slump with his first goal in 17 games to complete Ottawa’s comeback from a 3-0 first period deficit.
For the three practice days heading into the game, Chiasson was an extra forward, leading him to think he would be a healthy scratch.
“I guess I can’t believe I put that one in,” said Chiasson, who credited center Kyle Turris with a nice goal mouth setup. “I faced a little bit of adversity this week. It’s not easy as a player to think you’re going to be out of the lineup. Found out this morning I’m going to play against my former team … didn’t think I had a good first period but the last two were much better. Got to build on this.”
Playing their first game after an eight-day layoff during the all-star break, the Senators felt they would be a disadvantage against the Stars, who put one under their belt Tuesday.
“We did kind of expect to be a little bit sluggish to start, but no excuses, we shouldn’t be that sluggish,” said Senators coach Dave Cameron. “I thought our whole game was slow, sloppy. We were a real easy team to play against tonight, so that led to some real quality chances against. It was one of those games we got back into it, but we still didn’t have the jump.”
Lehner, who was making his first start since giving up five in Dallas 16 days earlier, cursed his luck. He said he lost an edge on Benn’s first of the night, was victim of a good tip on Sceviour and was screened on Hemsky’s power play blast.
“The last few games I’ve played, I work hard and try to get better, I feel good,” said Lehner. “But bar in, post in, hit someone … it’s just not going my way. I don’t know. I’m going to have a long sauna right now and think about things …who did I hurt to get these bounces? I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Spezza was happy to bank his first game back in Ottawa. The reception he was given by the fans was mixed — he received a standing ovation after a first period video montage on the center ice scoreboard, and he was booed when he touched the puck at various points throughout the night.
“I expected it a little bit. I did ask for a trade,” he said. ‘It’s emotional coming back and I’ve been a little bit distracted the last day or so and the guys did a great job of keeping me loose before the game and having a good time with it. I appreciate them playing as well as they did to get the win.”