OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators gave Jimmy Howard full credit for his 37-save performance, but still felt they deserved a better outcome.
Howard was the difference for the Red Wings on Saturday night, but it was Frans Nielsen who scored the shootout winner as Detroit edged the Senators 2-1.
Craig Anderson was just as impressive for the Senators making 29 saves.
"That was one of the best goaltending duels I’ve seen in a long time, it was absolutely ridiculous," said Ottawa coach Guy Boucher. "Both goalies didn’t want to budge so basically it took the entire game for both goaltenders to give one. That’s the story of the game."
Howard is looking to rebound from a difficult season last year and Saturday’s performance is a good start.
"I think Jimmy’s been real solid," said Detroit coach Jeff Blashill. "I think we’ve done a pretty good job of not giving up high, high-end chances. We’ve given up a number of shots, but I think we’ve battled in front of our net."
Martin Frk scored in regulation for the Red Wings (2-0-0).
Dion Phaneuf scored for the Senators (0-0-2), who lost for the second straight game in a shootout.
Goaltending was impressive at both ends, but the Senators can’t overlook the fact they were 0 for 7 with the man advantage. The power play was an issue last season for Ottawa and not much has changed.
The Senators were once again without special teams catalyst and captain Erik Karlsson, who’s still recovering from off-season ankle surgery.
"The bottom line is we’ve got to stick with it and you’ve got to stick to what you’re doing and give it a little bit more," said Phaneuf. "I feel we had the opportunities, but I believe Howard played really well tonight.
"We expect to produce, it’s part of the role of being out there, but we’ll look at tape, we’ll put the work in and we’ll continue to grow at it. I don’t think you get discouraged and you get negative about it because when you do that you grip it a little bit more tight and nothing comes from that."
For the second straight game the Senators found themselves playing half the game with just five defencemen.
Ben Harpur, who had been recalled from AHL Belleville to replace the injured Johnny Oduya, took just three shifts in the second period before leaving the game with an upper-body injury.
Boucher didn’t sound overly confident that Oduya would be ready to play Tuesday in Vancouver and said Harpur definitely wouldn’t be available. Ottawa will likely call up one, if not two defencemen for their western Canadian three-game road trip.
Boucher couldn’t say enough about his remaining five blueliners.
"This is as good as they can play right now together," said Boucher. "This is tough. You’re missing top two defencemen and then you’re stuck on top of that finishing with five D. There’s a lot of guys playing well above what they normally can take so I have to raise my hat to those guys."
Anderson and Howard were solid through the third, until Detroit opened the scoring at 17:26 as Frk was able to beat Anderson low glove side.
Ottawa responded just 43 seconds later as Phaneuf made a good read and chose to jump into the play and let a shot go from just inside the blue line.
Mark Stone looked like he had a sure goal on the Senators’ fifth power play of the game only to see the puck ring off the post. Ottawa hit the post five times throughout the course of the game.
Anderson looked unbelievable as he was able to reach across just in time to rob Justin Abdelkader with just over two minutes left in the second period.
A scoreless first period saw the Senators squander four power-play opportunities as they managed just six shots.
Notes: Sens forward Alex Formenton became the youngest player in Senators history to make his NHL debut. … Ottawa centre Logan Brown was a healthy scratch. … Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall is day-to-day with a groin injury.