Applause rained down as Daniel Alfredsson stepped on the ice Sunday evening and the cheering from the 20,011 fans continued during a two-minute tribute video that honoured the return of the former Ottawa Senators captain.
"It's hard to describe. How do you feel you deserve to be cheered on after all you do is play hockey. It's kind of surreal at times to have that feeling," Alfredsson said.
But after going out for two small circles of the ice, the video faded to black and the black rubber disc hit the ice. Then the love-in for the now-Detroit Red Wing was over.
The excitement also died off quickly as the game became sloppy and the fans went silent.
Coming off a three-point game, Alfredsson was pretty quiet for most of the night, too, but he did pick up an assist on the game’s first goal, a Johan Franzen snapper on an odd-man rush.
The fans did not react for or against when Alfie’s name was announced. Later in the game, fans also booed when he had the puck and the Alfie chants had disappeared.
But Alfredsson said fans should boo him and stick up for their team. He also said it was nice to get through the night and move on.
"It does put a lot of questions away going forward and that's the way it should be," he said.
Marc Methot a surprise scratch
Down 3-1, the Senators did make a game of it when Mika Zibanejad scored late, but Alfredsson ended any hope when his wrist shot from the neutral zone found its way through the pipes to make it 4-2.
Drew Miller led the Red Wings with two goals and Clarke MacArthur had the other for the struggling Senators. Johan Franzen also scored for Detroit.
Each team played without top players. Pavel Datsyuk remained out with concussion symptoms caused by a hit last weekend from Jared Cowen, while Cowen was inserted into the lineup at the last minute for Marc Methot.
No matter if Alfredsson retires after this season, this will not be his final game in Ottawa. The Red Wings visit again on Feb. 27.