Although the game ended on a sour note, the effort the Ottawa Senators displayed to come back from a 3-0 deficit to force overtime against the Atlanta Thrashers was impressive nonetheless. Impressive for several reasons: The Senators had every reason to be frustrated as the Thrashers blocked a huge number of shots, and Ondrej Pavelec looked very strong on those that got through; a few weak goals past Brian Elliott is usually enough to get the Senators dialed out early; and finally, because it marks the third game in a row the Senators scored three goals.
Credit to the Sens for sticking to their game plan, though. They kept the pressure on the Thrashers, continued firing shots towards Pavelec, and late in the third period, Daniel Alfredsson scored a huge goal--for him personally, and for the team--that obviously took a lot of stress off the rest of the team. Chris Neil drove to the net to get Ottawa within one, and for the rest of regulation it was pretty much all Ottawa. Jason Spezza scored the game-tying goal on a penalty shot, but he who giveth (the Senators one point in the game) also taketh away (the second point, with an egregious giveaway in overtime). Overall, it was a step in the right direction for the Senators, even if it was a tough mark on an otherwise great game for Spezza.
Sens Hero: Daniel Alfredsson
The stress that dissipated when Alfredsson scored his first point in eleven games seemed tangible, even watching the game on TV. You could see the relief on Alfie's face, and it seemed to give the whole team a huge lift--and may very well have given them that extra boost as they worked towards tying the game.
Sens Hero: Alex Kovalev
No points again for Kovalev, but he still had a heck of a game--especially since you usually see no effort but points anyway, tonight he had the effort but no points. He was the best Senator in the first period by far, and played some strong two-way play throughout the game.
Redeemed Sens Zero: Brian Elliott
Although Elliott was culpable for a few of the goals the Thrashers scored, he was huge in the second half of regulation, making several huge saves to keep the game within reach and enable Ottawa's scorers to tie things up. He's still too deep in the net at times, and isn't back in his top form, but he made up for some early struggles with late-game strong play.
Incriminated Sens Hero: Jason Spezza
Through regulation, Spezza was amazing: Five shots on net, including a penalty-shot goal he really worked hard to earn, in around 20 minutes of ice time. But his giveaway in overtime kind of cast a shadow over the work he put forward in the rest of the game. Although overtime is a good time to try high-risk, high-reward plays, what Spezza tried was high-risk and low- if no-reward; he crossed the offensive blue line and tried a drop pass to Filip Kuba, who was way off the line and missed the puck allowing Bryan Little to go on a breakaway and score the game-winner on Elliott. Instead, Spezza could have simply carried the puck well into the zone and made some time to look for a good play to make. It was the risk you take with Spezza in the lineup, and less costly because of the loser-point overtime rules, but it was still unnecessary.
Sens Killer: Dustin Byfuglien
It's pretty obvious why Buff is the leading scorer on Atlanta, but also obvious why he's playing defence despite his offensive skills: He can play damn good defence, too. He had a goal and an assist for the Thrashers tonight.
Sens Killer: Committed Thrashers
Through the first 35 or so minutes, the Thrashers were insanely committed to stopping Ottawa from getting anything at Pavelec. By the end of the game Atlanta finished with 24 shots-blocks, led by Johnny Oduya (5) and Brent Sopel (4).
Sens Killer: Bryan Little
Little extended his point streak to four games with his two goals tonight, including the game-winner in overtime.
Fun With Numbers:
Ottawa had no penalties tonight. ... Chris Neil had five hits on the night, followed by Chris Phillips with three. ... Jason Spezza won six of eight faceoffs, but Chris Kelly won 10 of 16. ... Bryan Little lost 11 of 17 faceoffs. ... Both Chris Campoli and Matt Carkner finished the game -3. ... Peter Regin played only 8:00 in the game, although that was more than linemates Jesse Winchester (6:27) and Ryan Shannon (7:07).