I ripped off Ryan Classic for this headline. Are we bitter? Yes, we are.
See, the Senators had an early first period powerplay goal by Jason Spezza waved off due to a unnecessarily strict interpretation of the rules of goaltender interference. With a ton of traffic in front of the net, Milan Michalek was touching thinly-veiled Sens Killer Tomas Vokoun, which means that the goal didn't count.
From there, the game started to take the sickening turn that Sens fans have seen through this early season. Washington got a nice powerplay goal from Nicklas Backstrom thanks to to a high-sticking call on Chris Neil and not four minutes later, Alex Auld let in a terribly soft goal on a Marcus Johansson wraparound attempt. 2-0 Caps with most of the first period remaining? The rout was on, right?
The Senators used the momentum from a strong penalty kill to get back in the game, with Peter Regin burying a sharp angle shot over a sprawled Vokoun with just 30 seconds left in the period to climb back within one.
From there, the Sens continued to build, outworking and outhitting the Capitals for the rest of the game, generating turnovers and scoring chances frequently. Over the final two periods, they outshot the Caps 26-12, but couldn't solve Vokoun, who turned in terrific save after terrific save.
(read on for Heroes and Zeroes...)
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
Though he was held pointless tonight, the kid was absolutely amazing. Karlsson demonstrated ridiculous vision and creativity all night, at one point centering a puck by intentionally banking it off the back boards, but that wasn't what earned him hero status for me--it was his defensive play. Let's be clear here: although he was a minus-one on the night, not only was Karlsson Ottawa's best offensive defenseman, he was their best defensive defenseman as well.
The box score will tell you that Alex Ovechkin was held pointless despite taking seven shots. What it won't tell you is that the defenseman who constantly stifled him was none other than Karlsson. Knowing he couldn't outmuscle the bigger player, Karlsson simply played smart angles. He wasn't scared to get physical, but he didn't try to separate the puck with hitting. It was not a mistake-free game for the youngster, but it was an outstanding performance.
Sens Hero: Milan Michalek
Michalek led all Senators forwards with just over twenty minutes of ice time in the game, and he earned it with his crazy-legged play. His speed was on full display, and once again, he helped his line generate chance after chance, especially late in the game when Daniel Alfredsson replaced Mika Zibanejad.
Sens Zero: Mika Zibanejad
Played the least time of any Senators skater who isn't a goon that isn't even winning the faceoffs he's supposed to or who wasn't injured blocking a shot, and deserved it. The kid just wasn't effective in the ice time that he got. Fans should remain confident that this is just part of the rookie growing pains, and not read too much into it. Zibanejad clearly has the tools to play in the NHL, but it takes time to learn.
Before we start calling for Nikita Filatov to replace him before the nine game audition ends, the Cocktail was held off the scoresheet following his three-point game last night. There's learning to be done there, too.
Honorable Mention: Filip Kuba
Partnered with Karlsson for most of the night, they don't seem to distrust each other like last year. Kuba is still Kuba, as he was strangely out of position on the Johansson wraparound goal, forcing Zack Smith to try to cover for him way, way too late--but no one is asking Kuba to be outstanding. He simply has to be good enough that he doesn't lose the game for the team. Tonight, like most of the season, he was exactly that.
Honorable Mention: David Rundblad
Improved his play in this game and recorded his first NHL assist on Regin's goal. Generated a killer scoring chance on his own with some absurd dangling that made me wet my pants in fear, and looked more engaged than in his previous outing. Much like Erik Karlsson last year, you can see that Rundblad understands the game just fine. The rest is just experience.
Sens Killer: Tomas Vokoun
33 saves on 34 shots. Not the weak perimeter chest-thumpers, either. Vokoun won this game for Washington. Period.
Jason Spezza - 13 of 24 (.542)
Stephane Da Costa - 4 of 6 (.667)
Peter Regin - 8 of 12 (.667)
Zenon Konopka - 6 of 13 (.462)