This season the Ottawa Senators and their fans truly are being spoiled by the team's goaltenders. It's like they're making up for lost time, or something. And it's awesome.
On Thursday night it was Robin Lehner putting in an outstanding effort, despite the eventual loss. This embarrassment of riches is bordering on surreal, but more on that later; there's a game to talk about here.
The Senators were up against the longtime nemeses Boston Bruins for the first time in the season, and on paper it looked like a mismatch--yet again. But yet again, the resilience and hustle of the team (combined with some spectacular goaltending) kept the game a lot closer than it probably should have been.
For the first frame, it looked like it might end up being a huge mismatch. The Bruins took the play to the Senators and outshot them by an 11-5 margin, despite the fact that Ottawa had two powerplays while the Bruins had just one. But Lehner stood tall and kept his team in it.
Things turned around for the Sens in the second, when they seemed to catch their legs--until a flukey Nathan Horton "shot" managed to trickle past Lehner to put Boston up by one. After that, the Sens needed a spark. And who do they turn to when they need a spark? Not Daniel Alfredsson. Not Kyle Turris. Not Jakob Silfverberg. No, the Senators turn to...
JOB scored his fifth goal of the season to tie the game up at aces, and in the process became the top-scoring forward on the Ottawa Senators roster. File that under the "Things you never expected to read on the first of March," along with "The Senators haven't really missed Erik Karlsson or Jason Spezza" and "Montreal is first in the Eastern Conference." The pace of the period was much higher for both teams in the second, but the Bruins once again outshot the Sens--although by a slender 18-15 count.
The third was a physical, hard-fought period with good chances at both ends and great saves by the two 'tenders. Milan Lucic was, naturally, running around like an idiot, and he ended up taking a penalty due to the frustration that had built up in his veins throughout a game of not really getting much done: He missed a check on Alfredsson and, in order to preserve possession, placed his hand over the puck in the offensive zone--a penalty. Ottawa couldn't do anything with the man-advantage in regulation, but it carried over into overtime.
In the extra frame, Ottawa took advantage of the powerplay with good pressure in the Boston zone and a few shots, the most potent of which came off Patrick Wiercioch's stick when he displayed some great offensive instincts by skating into a gap and taking a solid wrister. Tuukka Rask just got a piece of it. The Bruins carried the play for the rest of the overtime period until the 3:38 mark, when yet another unfortunate fluke of a goal, this time off the stick of Patrice Bergeron, managed to trickle past Lehner. There was some question about whether or not it had fully crossed the line, but review showed that it had.
It was a tough way to end the winning streak, but the Sens put in a great effort against a well-rested (and injury-free) team and earned the point they'll take away from the game.
Sens Hero: Robin Lehner
He's not going to be happy with the goals that sullied his effort, because Lehner deserved better. He looked very cool in the net, calming the nerves of his teammates facing a tough Bruins forecheck, and stoppd 44 of 46 shots faced. The hard part now: Since both he and Ben Bishop have been playing great hockey, who gets to start any remaining games until Craig Anderson returns?
Sens Hero: Patrick Wiercioch
From an offensive standpoint, this might have been Wiercioch's best game--and he didn't even register a point. He should, really, get a point for his great pass to Kaspars Daugavins, which set the table for Ottawa's lone goal on the night, but the NHL rarely awards a third assist. He had Ottawa's best chance in overtime, and it was one of the best scoring chances for Ottawa on the night. Although he played less than any defenceman other than Andre Benoit, I feel like Wiercioch's TOI--especially on the powerplay--will continue to creep up as the year goes on.
Sens Hero: Jim O'Brien
Jimbo's fun to watch. He just skates and skates without stopping, takes punishment all over the ice without noticing, and keeps on plugging away. That's how he scored his goal on Thursday: He kept swatting at the puck, and eventually it managed to go in. I'm still not sure how, but the how isn't important. Also noteworthy: JOB wasn't the only Senator who won more faceoffs than he lost, but he smoked the competition; he won seven of eight draws taken, including all four against Bergeron. O'Brien played the least ice time of any Sens player, but he sure made the most of it.
Honourable Mention: Kyle Turris
I feel like I've got to mention Turris because despite the very obvious (and downright brutal) offensive struggles, the guy's still working. And if tonight is any indication, he's going to break out in short order. His line with Alfredsson and Silfverberg had their chances tonight (although Turris' best was set up by Mika Zibanejad late in the game), and soon a puck that comes off Turris' stick is going to go in the opposing net.
Rageaholic: Milan Lucic
Boy, was Lucic angry about something, or what? By the time the third period rolled around I half-expected his face to morph into the colour and shape of a beet and steam to come out of his ears like he was in a Popeye cartoon. It worked out for the Senators because, well, he was completely ineffective and ended up costing his team more than he gained, but I've got to admit that I was scared he'd try to run over Lehner or something. Scared for Lucic, that is.
Sens Hero: Zack Smith
Part of Lucic' rageahol outbreak probably had something to do with Z. Smith, who's not only become a superbly effective checking centre (despite the abhorrent 3-for-12 faceoff proficiency), he's also continuing to be a superbly effective pest. He'd mostly gotten under the skin of Nathan Horton on the night, but was probably disliked by everyone on the Bruins roster by the time the game ended.
Sens Hero: Eric Gryba
Another factor in negating Lucic (and a few other Bruins players) was Gryba. He was obviously pretty stoked to be back in Boston, and this type of game brought out the best in him. The Bruins' scorekeepers only credited him with two hits, but I'll tell you right now that's dead wrong; he was a physical force all night long, and looked good while at it.
Sens Zero: Andre Benoit
Tough night for the guy, who played less than any other defenceman on the team for good reason: His size becomes a huge liability (ha!) against a big and physical team like the Bruins. He was on the ice for both Boston goals, and both came off scrambles in front of the net--scrambles that Benoit doesn't have the size or strength to contend in.
Sens Hero: You
For reading to this point because I think I'm in world's-longest-recap territory here.