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Norris winner Karlsson leads Ottawa to 4-1 win over Winnipeg

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Erik Karlsson proved on Day 1 of the abbreviated NHL season that he's picking up where he left off for the Ottawa Senators.

The All-Star defenseman had a goal and a pair of assists to lead the Senators to a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.

Senators tough guy Chris Neil scored on a rebound to break a 1-1 tie late in the second period, and then Karlsson made it 3-1 with a power-play goal with under eight minutes left in the third period as Ottawa showed more energy and offense to earn a victory on the road.

Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris also scored for Ottawa, while Dustin Byfuglien opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period for Winnipeg.

Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson, who made 27 saves to earn the win, said Karlsson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner as the league's top defenseman from 2011-12, was terrific.

"Erik's something else," Anderson said. "Like I said last year, he beats to his own drum and he's able to do whatever he wants, when he wants. He's just that type of player.

"It's fun to watch him. It's a privilege to play on his team."

But Karlsson wasn't particularly enamored with his own game.

"I didn't play very well. I didn't feel really good out there," he said. "But it's nice to contribute to something, and obviously getting the goal on the power play was good for us. Hopefully, we can build on this. These are the games you need to win when you're not feeling the best."

Jets fans embraced a forgive-and-forget attitude at the downtown MTS Centre, even though the puck dropped more than three months late due to an exasperating NHL lockout. Ten minutes before the clubs even skated onto the ice, a frenetic sellout crowd of more than 15,000 spectators was on its feet, shouting "Go, Jets, Go."

The Jets responded with a fast start and a couple of close calls, hammering two shots off the post before even registering their first official shot on goal four minutes into the first. But they made their third shot of the period count when Byfuglien ripped a slap shot past Anderson with the Jets on the power play at the six-minute mark. Neil was off serving a two-minute minor penalty for boarding when Byfuglien scored.

Ottawa tied the game 1-1 when Milan Michalek converted a giveaway by Jets rookie blueliner Paul Postma, firing the puck past Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec with four minutes left in the first.

Byfuglien nearly had his second goal of the period when he joined the rush, took a pass from Bryan Little and tried to beat Anderson low, only to be stopped by a great toe with less than a minute to go in the opening frame.

Anderson said the Senators were lucky to get through the first 20 minutes tied 1-1.

"We gave up one early and were able to settle down early and get to our game plan," he said. "We got a few lucky bounces off the start, they hit some points. ... You've got to be lucky to be good sometimes. (Sens coach Paul MacLean) did a good job after the first TV timeout to rally the troops and make sure we got back to the basics."

The Sens grabbed a 2-1 lead late in the second when Neil, battling two Jets in front of Pavelec, batted in his first goal of the season off a scramble.

Karlsson blasted a point shot for his first goal of the year with under eight minutes remaining in the third period, and Turris added a goal late in the third period.

Ottawa outshot Winnipeg 37-28.

Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said he anticipated a better game from his crew.

"I didn't think we got a lot of A games from our players," he said. "Our key guys, our best players -- not that they didn't work, they worked -- but some of them tried too hard, and I don't think you saw what we would see from our players."

He was, however, impressed with big Byfuglien.

"He was good. He was responsible. He tried to make a difference in the game," Noel said. "He played a more balanced game. He used his weight and size to knock people off the puck. And he was dangerous."

NOTES: Jets co-owner Mark Chipman greeted fans as they streamed into Winnipeg's MTS Centre on Saturday afternoon, shaking hands and thanking people for their patience during the NHL lockout. ... The Jets opened the abbreviated season without defenseman Zach Bogosian, who had surgery on his wrist in August and isn't likely to return until late February. ... Winnipeg's next game is Monday in Boston against the Bruins. The club plays the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday night. ... Ottawa hosts the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Place on Monday night. ... The Senators beat the Jets twice last year in Winnipeg by identical 6-5 scores. ... Karlsson led all NHL blueliners with 78 points in 81 games last season and earned Norris Trophy honors as the league's top defenseman. The Jets' Dustin Byfuglien finished second in points by a defenseman with 53. ... Daniel Alfredsson is the longest-serving captain in the NHL as he heads into his 13th season wearing the "C." He was the franchise leader in games played (1,131), goals (416), assists (666) and points (1,082) coming into Saturday's game.
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