The Senators rolled into Columbus stuck right in the middle of the worst stretch in the Paul MacLean era. The team has taken too many penalties, given up way too many shots, and looked like they've never seen the inside of the their own zone before. The team had just four wins in fourteen games, and even though Erik Karlsson has been piling up points, even though Bobby Ryan-Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur have been good, and even though their goalies have been just fine, most others have been bad.
The first period of tonight's game didn't do too much to prove that this trend has been an anomaly. The Columbus Blue Jackets may not be the world's most talented roster, but they certainly work extremely hard, and it felt as though the Sens were a step behind for most of the period. Naturally, the Senators took the period's only two penalties and naturally they were outshot 13-9. Naturally Robin Lehner stood on his head. And naturally, Erik Karlsson decided that if nobody else was going to do it, he'd just skate 1 on 4 and score on a bullet shot. And then NATURALLY, the Turris line went to work, with Ryan feeding MacArthur for a late, beautiful goal.
The second period started with the Blue Jackets buzzing and a big Mark Borowiecki hit (followed by short fight). The Senators had their first two powerplays of the game, and they were both ugly. Robin Lehner also showed that his puck playing skills could use some work, as there were a few close calls in the Senators zone. Best chance of the period came off the stick of Cory Conacher who was robbed by McElhinney. The rest of the period saw the Senators finally get a powerplay with some zone time, and some more Lehner time. Shots at the end of the period were 26-17 for Columbus.
Third period began with an Erik Karlsson slashing penalty. The Senators looked great for the first 1:45 of the penalty kill, yet RJ Umberger managed to find a puck in front and put it past Lehner. Later, Chris Neil had a pretty maddening shift where he decided to fight Jared Boll as Zack Smith and Milan Michalek were breaking up the ice. Colin Greening found himself on the receiving end of two nice Jason Spezza passes that lead to nice chances, but couldn't convert on either. The Senators continued to press for the insurance goal, with Erik Karlsson getting two good looks on a late man advantage. Then, just to piss off many on Twitter, Chris Neil of all people scored the Sens third goal as Jason Spezza set the table for him perfectly. He followed that up with a boarding penalty and another fight, so Chris Neil gonna Chris Neil.
Erik Karlsson took a late alley-oop from Spezza to bury an empty-netter to seal the game.
Sens Hero: Robin Lehner - Amazing how good your team looks when your goalie is playing all world. Robin Lehner, while he's a brutal puck handler, is amazing at keeping that little black puck out of the net. The team got outshot by a wide margin again tonight (33-24), and without Lehner, it could have been an ugly game. He may get a chance to get a few games with Anderson out of the lineup, and if he continues to play like this, his win total should increase.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson - He looks like Pre-Cooke Karlsson and every team in the league should be very worried. Every time he is on the ice, magic happens. He's the best player on this team and it isn't even close.
Sens Hero: Bobby Ryan - This guy has been everything that was advertised. He's a very special player. One thing my dad noted on the weekend - he makes the goalie make a save. Very few of his shots miss the mark, and he had another couple chances tonight to go along with his nice assist.
Honourable Mention: Jason Spezza - Personally I think this was one of Jason Spezza's best games of the season. He got on the scoresheet with a couple late assists, but I also thought he skated really well, looked smooth and was comfortable with the puck all night. He took the extra second to make the right play all night and it worked for him. In particular I thought he played well on the penalty kill and he seems to have found a way to get Colin Greening going.
Sens get to meet up with the Habs on Thursday to renew their relationship after an intense playoff series, and that should be a great one.