The Ottawa Senators were playing their second game in as many nights against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night, and it showed in their play. Add in the fact that most of Thursday's game was played with just ten forwards and the overnight travel getting to Carolina, and you can see why the team would have been tired. In fact, the only one who looked prepared to play was Craig Anderson--and it's a good thing, too, because without him the Sens would have been completely smoked.
Carolina took an early lead in the game when Andreas Nodl tossed the puck to the front of the net and it bounced past Anderson. At first it looked like Riley Nash had his first NHL goal, but review showed that Nodl's centring pass hit Anderson's stick, bounced off Matt Carkner's leg, and went into the net. Shortly after the goal, Zack Smith and Erik Condra took consecutive penalties to give Carolina an extended 5-on-3 opportunity, but some strong penalty-killing--especially by Filip Kuba and Kaspars Daugavins--got Ottawa through it unscathed. Later in the first, Kuba fired a puck on net from a tricky angle, but it somehow got past Cam Ward and the game was tied. The Hurricanes outshot Ottawa by a massive 19-6 margin in the first 20 minutes.
The rest of the game went by slowly and without much of note, except some strong goaltending at both ends. Ottawa was still outshot, but not as badly, firing 15 shots in the second and third periods compared to Carolina's 17. Each of Bobby Butler, Mike Hoffman, and Erik Karlsson hit the post at some point in the final 40 minutes, but no one could solve Ward again and the game went to overtime.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Anderson is the only reason the Senators got one point in the game--and, even more than that, the only reason this game wasn't a blowout. He stopped 36 of 38 shots faced, and was incredibly calm and cool in the net. With pucks regularly rolling through and around his crease, he calmly gobbled them up and forced no fewer than 15 defensive-zone faceoffs after freezing the puck. It seemed he was taking every opportunity to slow the game down and calm his team, hoping they'd improve their defensive-zone play and get something going offensively, but it didn't really happen. The Senators' forwards let their goaltender down tonight.
Sens Hero: Filip Kuba
Kuba had what was almost certainly his best game of the season against the Hurricanes, and may have played his best game as an Ottawa Senator. He played over 22 minutes in the game, including 2:10 while short-handed, and was especially impressive during the early-game 5-on-3 Hurricanes powerplay. Oh yeah, and did I mention he scored the only goal for the Sens? It might have been a lucky one, but he put the puck on net and it worked out--something the Senators should have done a few more times in the night.
Honourable Mentions: Sergei Gonchar, Bobby Butler
Although Gonchar finished the game with a Fenwick score of -12, I was still impressed with his game overall. He played a remarkable 26:19, including 1:59 on the PK, and blocked a couple of shots. Gonchar's demonstrated a strategy I've heard mention from Senators players, which is 'puck on stick': Basically, just get your stick in the way to nip developing plays in the bud. He couldn't do it every time, but he did a good job of it.
Butler fired six shots toward the net, and was on mark for two of them. His best scoring chance came off a set play in the offensive zone, when Zenon Konopka won a clean draw right to Butler in the slot. Butler absolutely rifled his shot, but unfortunately chimed the iron and it was for naught. Still, it looks like Butler might be getting back to the scoring form of last season.
Good debut: Mike Hoffman
The Hoff had a pretty strong start to his NHL career, although he played just 9:01 in the game. He had no shots other than the one that hit the post, but was speedy and intense and his line with Bobby Butler and Zenon Konopka had some of the best offensive-zone pressure of any Senators forward lines. (That last statement should go a long way in explaining why the Sens lost on Friday.)
Rock you like a Turricane: Kyle Turris
Yet another assist for the Turris Attraction (these nicknames are boss, by the way), which is impressive even if it wasn't on the game-winner this time. Three points in three games is a good way to start with a new team.
Zack Smith takes stupid penalties: Yes, he does.
Just 8:11 into the first period, Z. Smith took a totally unnecessary offensive-zone hooking penalty. The Senators were already behind the eight ball in the game, but Z. Smith's penalty didn't help any.
Erik Condra takes smart penalties: Yes, he does.
Just 8:20 into the first period, Condra took a defensive-zone hooking penalty that may very well have saved a goal. The Senators were already short-handed at the timing so it wasn't optimal, but Alexei Ponikarovsky had an open net to shoot at, so Condra likely saved a goal.