Ottawa Senators\' Nick Foligno (bottom) and Tampa Bay Lighting\'s Matt Lashoff race for the loose puck during second period NHL hockey action at the Brandt Centre in Regina, Sask., Monday, Sept. 21, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Troy Fleece
REGINA - Ottawa brought out the big guns while Tampa Bay iced a team largely of unknowns, and it showed in the Senators' 3-1 pre-season win over the Lightning on Monday.
The matchup marked the first time in almost 20 years an NHL game has been played in Regina since Brett Hull and the St. Louis Blues came to town and lost 7-6 to the Winnipeg Jets in 1990.
It might not have been worth the wait decade-long wait, but the 6,450 in attendance were treated to an A-list gala of superstar Senators and an alphabet soup of Lightning unknowns.
Ottawa (2-3-0) sat captain Daniel Alfredsson, but played Mike Fisher, Jason Spezza and newly acquired Russian sniper Alex Kovalev, and they didn't disappoint.
"Obviously Regina, they don't get to see this type of hockey too often so it's good to interact with some of the fans and see family and some of the guys from the Western (Hockey) League," Fisher said while accommodating a group of autograph seekers and camera clicking fans.
Kovalev, playing for one of the first times with his new team, said the adjustment was easy as he was well aware of his teammates' capabilities. Playing against a bunch of rookies and minor leaguers he wasn't familiar with also wasn't a big deal, Kovalev said.
"I never really look at the opposite team and who they've got. I usually concentrate on my game and a team effort."
Fisher opened the scoring for Ottawa 3:22 into the first when he ripped a wrist shot from the top of the circle top shelf past Lightning goalie Antero Nittymaki.
Alex Kovalev made it 2-0 senators when he converted a nifty feed from Jason Spezza midway through the second. And even if Kovalev hadn't recorded a point on the night, he put on a stickhandlng show that dazzled the fans and, at times, embarrassed the Lightning.
The only letdown was when Kovalev left the game early in the third after taking a stick to the face from Tampa Bay's James Wright. But he made up for it when he returned for the last few minutes of the game with a few stitches above his left eye.
In the third, Spezza picked up his own rebound and potted an insurance goal. Assisting on the goal was Fisher, not to be outdone while playing in front of family and friends from the Regina area.
Steve Downie, one of the few recognizable players skating for the Lightning, did manage to get Tampa Bay on the score sheet in the second when he slid a perfect pass through the crease onto Carter Ashton's tape for an easy tip in.
Downie also put on a bit of a show when he fought Ottawa's Chris Neil near the end of the game after Neil ran at the Lightning's pest.
It could have been Neil's way of exacting retribution of Downie. While a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Downie nailed the Seantors' Dean McAmmond with a cheap shot during a 2007 pre-season game. McAmmond suffered a concussion and Downie was slapped with a 20-game suspension.
Tampa Bay superstars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis sat this one out, and St. Louis said he was happy with how his team looked given the lack of star power.
"We had a lot of young guys in the lineup. Obviously Ottawa had pretty much their A-squad. I thought our kids played pretty well."
In the end, Tampa Bay managed only 12 shots to Ottawa's 29. Picking up the win for Ottawa was Brian Elliot while the loss went to Nittymaki, who split goaltending duties with Riku Helenius.