There's not really a clever caption to be had here. - USA TODAY Sports
The Ottawa Senators came into tonight's game against the Penguins with Erik Karlsson. They left without him.
Even before the game began, things took a turn for the worse for the Senators when Milan Michalek was injured during warmups. The Michalek injury seemed big at the time -- and it certainly is -- but it pales in comparison to the loss of Erik Karlsson late in the second period. More on that later.
The Penguins struck first in the game, as Chris Neil and Erik Karlsson had a miscommunication on a breakout and Sidney Crosby came out with the puck and made a beautiful saucer pass to Pascal Dupuis. It was about the only interesting thing that happened in the period.
Ottawa received the benefit of a 5-on-3 powerplay midway through the second, and after they failed to score with the two-man advantage it looked like the opportunity would go to waste. However, immediately after the second penalty ended, Stephane Da Costa fired one from behind the net that went in off of Marc-Andre Fleury's pads, tying the game at 1-1. Seconds later, Jim O'Brien broke through the Penguins defense and fired a shot that went in off Fleury's glove, giving the Senators their first lead of the game. It wouldn't last long, though, as the Pens tied it on a James Neal powerplay goal. With the second period winding down, sitting at 2-2 wouldn't be the end of the world.
Erik Karlsson leaving the game with a minute left in the second period? That would be the end of the world.
The play was a strange one -- Matt Cooke followed Karlsson to the boards, and went in for a check with his left leg up. When they got to the boards, Cooke's leg came down swiftly and his skate blade appeared to cut Karlsson in the lower calf region. Karlsson stayed down briefly, then brought himself to his feet before hobbling to the bench with no weight on his leg.
About an hour later, the Ottawa Senators Twitter feed confirmed the worst:
Update on Karlsson: Erik suffered a laceration to his left achilles, which will require surgery to repair. He will be out indefinitely.
Without Karlsson, the Senators looked flat in the third period. The Penguins controlled the bulk of the play, and goals from Neal and Crosby gave the Pens a comfortable 4-2 lead. Near the end of the period, Chris Neil went after Cooke for some retribution, but it seemed pointless: the game had been lost, Karlsson had been lost, and any optimism relating to the 2013 NHL season had been lost.
Karlsson is undoubtedly the most important member of the Ottawa Senators. He plays half of the game, goes against the other team's top lines, and pretty much all offense runs through him. Losing him when the Senators were already missing Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen, Guillaume Latendresse, and Peter Regin to injury is almost certainly the death knell for the team's season.
Mark here. I just want to say this: