I guess after coming back and getting a point out of a game the Ottawa Senators had no business being in against the Nashville Predators, we could have expected karma to come back and bite us. After carrying much of the play against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, the Senators lost their 3-1 lead with less than two minutes left and came out on the losing side of a 4-3 shoout loss.
Although they benefited from the strong games of Mark Recchi and Derek Morris, the only reason Boston was anywhere near Saturday's game was goaltender Tim Thomas. He stopped 27 of Ottawa's 30 shots on the night, plus three more in the shootout, including some spectacular come-across saves, particularly against Daniel Alfredsson in the second period. Brian Elliott was good, but Thomas was out-of-this-world.
Not to make an untoward excuse out of it, the Senators can be upset with the referees after this loss. Not because of any missed calls or ghost calls, but because, just before the Bruins tied the game, after Bruins coach Claude Julien had already used his timeout, and despite the referees having signaled for both teams to line up for the faceoff twice, all members of the Bruins remained at the bench for an "unofficial" timeout. NHL rules indicate that, whether or not both teams are lined up, the puck should be dropped, but the referees didn't follow the rules; they waited for Boston to find their tactical plan, and then get set up for the drop of the puck. Ottawa coach Cory Clouston was, for good reason, incensed, but to no avail. The play went on, the Bruins were ready, and David Krejci scored the game-tying goal on the ensuing play.
But the bottom line is that Ottawa carried the play handily for the vast majority of the game, couldn't pad their lead enough, and--due to a couple of poorly-timed defensive gaffes--gave up their lead, and lost it in overtime.
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Although Ottawa only outshot the Bruins 30-28, they must have out-scoring-chanced them by a margin of at least two to one. Alfredsson said it best:
"They had no business winning that game," Alfredsson said. "They get one goal and then get a little bit lucky. We failed to clear and (Anton) Volchenkov loses his stick and they score."
The game-tying goal had a couple of mistakes on the play, which combined with Anton Volchenkov losing his stick to get Boston their scoring chance. First was Mike Fisher being unable to clear the puck after turning it over just inside the defensive blue line, which had the opportunity to relieve the pressure. Second was Chris Phillips against the boards in the corner, where--instead of eating the puck or finding a way of clearing it high off the glass--Phillips just shuffled it up along the boards, where, without Fisher's puck support, Patrice Bergeron gained control of the puck and set up Morris. Morris, who set up the second and third goals, spotted Krejci across the ice and slap-passed it to him, and that was all she wrote for regulation time.
Not much happened in overtime, except a Volchenkov tripping penalty, which was cut short when the OT frame ended. In the shootout, Alex Kovalev hit the left post, Alfredsson hit the right post, and Jason Spezza was stopped. Bergeron scored the only goal Boston needed, which barely trickled past Elliott.
Although Phillips and Volchenkov were on the ice for all three of Boston's goals, I actually think they both had pretty solid games. Particularly offensively, as both of the Senators' top shutdown defencemen were routinely pinching in on the play (without sacrificing defensive positioning) and keeping offensive pressure on the Bruins. Volchenkov hadn't checked Recchi well enough on the second goal, and Phillips failed to clear the puck on the third, but both of those had other errors on the play.
On NHL.com, Milan Michalek was given first-star honours, but he might not even have been Ottawa's best player--and he certainly wasn't as influential as Thomas. Michalek had a great game, though; scored Ottawa's second goal by powering past a Boston defender and tucking the puck under Thomas, had five shots on net, a hit, a blocked shot, and some solid defensive support. Alfredsson was dominant at times, though, and had one goal--a short-handed marker, thanks to an incredible (or maybe lucky) pass from Fisher--and should have had one or two more, and four shots on the night. Ottawa's third league-elite, Spezza, kept his assist streak alive, extending it to five games, and kept up his solid two-way play.
Considering how well the Sens played on the night, it's a disappointing loss for the Senators, and they can't even take any solace in being able to say they let off on the pressure--they didn't, really, they just lost when Boston decided to get back into it, perhaps thanks to some luck, definitely thanks to some tenacity. On the plus side, it shows the Senators that, despite a strong start, they can't stop getting better.
Matt Carkner v. Shawn Thornton (fight of the night)