It didn't start out great, but it didn't end so badly.
As has happened far too often this season, the Ottawa Senators dug themselves a hole to climb out of. Fortunately, they were able to do so against a weaker opponent then they've faced in the past. But first, how'd they dig it?
Well, the officiating in this one was pretty dubious. Many of the calls were of the ticky-tack variety. With Mike Hoffman already in the penalty box for high-sticking Erik Gudbranson, Jason Spezza was called for goalie interference. Both penalties were correct under a strict interpretation of the rules--Hoffman's stick clearly hit Gudbranson, and Spezza clearly made contact with Florida Panther goalie Tim Thomas--but could have borne further examination, as Gudbranson lifted Hoffman's stick into his own face, and Spezza was not left with much room to try to avoid Thomas.
Regardless, the penalties combined to give Ottawa a 5-on-3 penalty kill. Remember those? Hadn't been one in a while, and you thought the team might be turning the corner, right? It was not to be, as Jonathan Huberdeau slipped a sneaky shot through goalie Craig Anderson.
A word about this goal--Craig Anderson has struggled of late, and desperately needed to get back on track (more on that later), and at first I thought this puck simply went through him. I was ready to give him a Sens Zero right then and there, but on further review, it's actually a really great play by Huberdeau. It's a 5-on-3, so Huberdeau is alone at the side of the net, but instead of just trying to bang it in on the short side before Anderson gets over, he actually shoots at Anderson's right pad (he was on Andy's left side, which meant that he used a ricochet and Anderson's own cross-ice movement to score five-hole. That's kind of badass.
Of course, there was another penalty to kill, and the penalty killers failed on that one, too. This one mostly falls on Erik Karlsson, as he joined his three teammates on one side of the ice, leaving Brian Campbell all alone at the top of the circle. Campbell then skated in unopposed and snapped one far side on Anderson. It was a shot you'd like to see Anderson stop--he was one-on-one with the shooter and obviously wasn't square enough as Campbell had daylight to shoot at, and he hit it.
Head coach Paul MacLean opted not to, and from that point, the Senators started their long climb out of the hole.
It started with a flukey goal, with thinly-veiled Sens Hero Joe Corvo just taking a standard wrister from the point. Thomas apparently just didn't see it, because it sailed into the net. And just like that, the Senators had life. They'd follow with another flukey goal, as Erik Condra found himself open after getting knocked down.
The play went like this: Thinly-veiled Sens Hero Clarke MacArthur gained the zone with his two linemates, and used his speed to create space for Spezza. Meanwhile, Condra drove the net. Spezza dished back to MacArthur. Meanwhile, Condra got knocked down during his drive. Meanwhile, MacArthur began to circle the net, drawing all the defenders towards him. He then reversed the puck to Spezza, who was also behind the net. Defenseman Tom Gilbert, who had knocked down Condra, was out of position from trying to chase MacArthur, and so Spezza tapped the puck immediately to Condra, who snapped it in from a tough angle.
The flukey goals weren't done, as late in the second period, while on the power play, Colin Greening got his second goal of the season. Corvo took a shot from far out, and while trying to jump out of the way, Greening hit it with his knee. The puck then took a high, lazy arc to the net. Not much anyone could do with it. The play was reviewed, but knees are as good as sticks.
And then there was one more fluke: Jared Cowen made a good play! Cowen, who was decent for an entire game for a change, picked up a puck and skated up the offensive zone, finding Bobby Ryan across the ice for an easy tap-in. What's really crazy is that Cowen drew the attention of three Panthers defenders, allowing Ryan to creep up undetected. Now, sure, Cowen jumped into the play by keeping a loose puck in the zone from off the bench, and you generally expect a player to take a slap shot and hope for a rebound in that situation, but none of them even thought to play the pass. The best part of the whole sequence? The celebration. Cowen's obviously a little down on himself, because he gives the most understated fist pump while skating over to Ryan, as if he didn't just make a really great pass. Ryan is having none of it, and moves in to give the maligned Cowen a little extra hug. Aww.
And there you have it. Four straight goals to rally from a 2-0 deficit. It was a win the team needed on a lot of levels. But it sure wasn't perfect. 2-0 against better opponents is still probably a loss, and there were still plenty of passes that hit their targets in the skates, as well as some time spent chasing the puck in the defensive zone. Those mistakes have been happening all year, but they're a little easier to swallow when you outshoot your opponent 45-32.
Sens Hero: Clarke MacArthur
Didn't really get Jason Spezza going per se--though Spezza didn't have a poor game by any means--but with two assists on the first two Senators goals, got his team going, and that's kind of a big deal. MacArthur plays a pretty simple game: Use speed, find open man, look for open space. With so many guys trapped in their own heads, it's a really refreshing thing to see, and it's also probably why it's working so well.
The Hoff Report - Mike Hoffman slotted right into the top six, stealing MacArthur's old spot alongside Kyle Turris and Ryan. How'd he look there? Nervous. Hoffman didn't really do much on the line, but he still had more than a handful of opportunities. One game is not enough to move him off, because you could at least see the potential in his play. A little more time with his linemates and adjusting to the NHL, and those opportunities should turn into scoring chances. That should be good enough. It would be a shame to see him get shuffled just because he didn't produce immediately.
Sens Hero: Joe Corvo
I didn't really want Corvo on this team, but if he keeps playing like tonight, I guess I can be okay with it. Corvo scored the goal that got the Senators back in the game, and it was his shot that created the game-winner. That's not a bad night's work, though he added to it with frequent rushes up the ice. He was like Karlsson-light in that aspect of the game, and it was noticeably helpful to the team's breakout. He also recorded two blocked shots, so it's not like he was messing around in his own zone, either.
Honorable Mention: Craig Anderson
I was none too thrilled with Anderosn's first period, but as play continued, Anderson's confidence seemed to grow like the Grinch's heart. He made two good saves without his stick and shut the door the rest of the way. This was a game that Anderson really needed to get back on track, and by the end, he was playing much more like the Anderson we saw last year. There's still a long way to go, because this game could have easily left him down and out, but it was nice to see him get a little vote of confidence from MacLean, and to see him make good on it.