The Senators celebrate letting Craig Anderson do all the work for them. Not pictured: Craig Anderson, because he was too busy doing all the work. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
This recap could simply be me writing "Craig Anderson" for three paragraphs, and that would be all you need to know. But since that would be a boring recap, the real one starts.... now.
This one had all of the makings of a trap game right from the start. Everyone knows the drama swirling around the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators were riding a high after shutting out the New York Rangers, Montreal had not lost to Ottawa this year, and it was the last game of the Sens' three-game road trip.
So, it's a trap game. Right, Alfie?
"We don’t have to guard against that, and the only reason I say that is that we’ve played too well for too long. I’m not saying that we’re not going to go on losing streaks, but for this to go to our heads, I can’t see it. Our work ethic has been good every night, and if you don’t go out and play hard every night, you’re not going to have a good chance of winning. We respect every team we play, we’re not going to take anything for granted, and that’s why it feels so good to be winning, because we’re earning it."
Whoops.Turns out the team did not "go out and play hard" tonight, but they still had a chance to win because thinly-veiled Sens Hero Craig Anderson came to play tonight. Andreson put together big save after big save, leading his team into the third tied 0-0 despite facing five Canadiens power plays in the first two periods.
Anderson definitely got a little luck, too, as an early Habs goal was waved off due to a goaltender interference call on Andrei Kostitsyn. The Senators had an absurd eight power play opportunities of their own, thanks to two different high-sticking double minors absorbed by the faces of Kaspars Daugavins and Zack Smith. We'll talk more about that later, but early in the third period--first minute early, Montreal scored short-handed thanks to a Jason Spezza turnover that sent Tomas Plekanec off to the races. Erik Karlsson chased him down but was unable to provide any stick-sweeping magic this time, as Plekanec's shot impossibly trickled through Anderson.
Luckily, that goal seemed to wake the Senators up, as they had been thoroughly outplayed up to that point. The team began to actually execute instead of bobbling passes and trying to corral the puck with their sticks only to turn it over. The pressure culminated in a goal when Kyle Turris tied it for Ottawa just a little later with a great tip--I didn't even notice that he got a piece of it at first--of a Sergei Gonchar shot.
The teams continued to trade chances until Spezza redeemed himself with a laser beam of a shot on the power play late in the third. The shot had some serious heat on it, and Carey Price (who also played very well) didn't have much of a chance to stop it.
If the Senators thought the goal would break the Canadiens' spirits, they were mistaken--Montreal had built up too much confidence with their play in the game to give up, and with Price pulled, they tied the game in the last minute. They then snuffed out a long 4-on-3 in overtime to take the game to a shootout.
Anderson, of course, stoned all three Montreal shooters to give his teammates a chance to win yet again. Ottawa's third shooter was Alfie, who apparently watched how Price played Michalek and Spezza to choose his shot. You only need to read the name "Alfie" to know how it turned out.
In conclusion: Craig Anderson.
(read on for heroes and zeroes....)
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
It's really difficult to overstate how well Anderson played in this game. Watching him track the puck throughout the game was simply impressive. Watching him soak up blasts with no rebounds was encouraging. Watching him totally focused and reading the play was uplifting. When the game went to the shootout, there was no reason not to be confident--he was in the zone. Maybe more than he has been all year. It's hard to believe this is the same man who was blown up by Montreal in their last meeting.
Sens Hero: Daniel Alfredsson
When the game is on the line, there's no one else on this team you'd want to have the puck on his stick more. He showed why yet again tonight.
Honorable Mention: Nick Foligno
He didn't bag a game-winning goal, and his assist on Turris' goal was about as secondary as you can get, but I felt that he was the best forward for the Senators tonight. Perhaps it's just the nature of his game that sees him achieve his best play in physical games, but Foligno was noticeable all night long for the Senators, and that's a good thing. The team would have been completely steamrolled if he weren't out there tonight.
Sens Zero: Power Play
I had these units listed as a Sens Killer until Spezza's late goal. Going 1-for-8 will do that. They were awful. So awful they couldn't even execute the Karlsson-Alfredsson OT special. Oh, and they gave up a short-handed goal for no good reason. They couldn't even enter the Montreal zone effectively. I guess if you're looking for a silver lining, it's that the one single time (no exaggeration) they were able to enter the zone cleanly and get set up, it resulted in Spezza's goal. There's hope, but the team had ample chances to put this game away on special teams and did not seize them.
Z. Smith takes stupid penalties: It's been a while since Z. Smith has been mentioned in his own little section, but his decision to board Hal Gill in the third was just... stupid. It's Hal Gill, man. Just skate around him. Everyone else does.
Zenon Konopka takes stupid penalties: But in a totally different way. Konopka was called for interference early in the first period, which was stupid, because there was absolutely no interference. I only bring this up because it was the second time in the period that Konopka was punished by officials for simply being on the ice as far as I could tell: Earlier in the period, Konopka approached the dot for a faceoff, put his stick on the ice, and was immediately kicked out. What...?
Is Randy Cunneyworth trying to get fired? Montreal's second shooter was Tomas Kaberle. What...?