Despite a very strong effort and some terrific goaltending, the Ottawa Senators fell short and lost 2-1 to the Montreal Canadiens on the back of a very questionable goaltender-interference penalty.
Things started well for the Ottawa Senators when Jakob Silfverberg scored to give Ottawa an early lead for only the second time this season, but the Montreal Canadiens responded just 35 second later, and they took a 2-1 lead later in the first and held on to it for the win. It was a tight-checking game with lots of shots and a few good scoring chances both ways, and both goaltenders were very good.
But that's not what people are talking about right now.
Instead of talking about a well-fought effort, folks around the league are talking about the goaltender interference call that caused a Senators' goal to be waved off. Early in the third, Andre Benoit fired a puck from the point that weaved through a few bodies past Silfverberg in front of the net and then past Carey Price. Not even the Montreal players thought there was an infraction on the play, but referee Brian Pochmara waved it off without hesitation and sent Silfverberg to the box with a goaltender interference penalty for good measure. Take a look at the play yourself, if you haven't seen it yet (or want to see it again):
It's a phantom call. Silfverberg was well away from the crease, and it was actually Price who made contact with rather than the other way around. It was an awful call, it cost the Sens at least one point, it cost Benoit his first NHL goal, and it costs the NHL and its refs some credibility. The refs were laughably bad both ways for the rest of the game, as well, but that was the culmination of a terribly-refereed game.
Most of the time, blown calls like this tend to come out even by the end of the year, but that's not going to quell the (justified) frustration from Sens fans. People are calling for heads to roll, for accountability, for an expanded role for video review, and for coaches' challenges to be explored. Feel free to voice your opinion on the subject in the comments.
But in the end, Ottawa lost the game, and the waved-off goal wasn't the only reason for that. Ottawa continues to struggle generating good offensive chances, and Price was very, very good for the Habs. It would be nice if Ottawa's brass had a bit more freedom to voice their frustration, but there are plenty of other issues that need to b addressed--and that the team has more power to address.
Sens Hero: Jakob Silfverberg
He scored Ottawa's only goal (thanks to a gorgeous stretch pass from Patrick Wiercioch) and was vital in screening Price for the second, even if it was called back. He was fourth among Senators' forwards in TOI for good reason, as it may have been his best game of the season. But there is still room to improve: His blown coverage of David Desharnais early in the first led to the game-tying goal. Still, on the whole, it was a solid effort from Silfverberg.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
This guy... ridiculous. He was culpable on the game-winning goal, yes, but he was still far and away the most electric player on the ice for the Sens and created more scoring chances than anyone else. He finished with 32:08 TOI, which is absurd, and fired a game-high seven shots on net. He now leads the league in shots, by the way. And that doesn't even include the plethora of shots blocked, of which he had 12 tonight. My only concern is that these 30-plus minute games and his insanely long shifts (18 shifts over a minute long, including seven that were over 90 seconds--one of which was 2:17 long) will wear him out well before the stretch run and potential post-season.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Another spectacular effort from Anderson, which makes it even more frustrating that the Sens couldn't come away with the win due to circumstances out of their control. He stopped 30 of 32 shots tonight, made some great saves, and once again gave his team a very good opportunity to win. And he still hasn't allowed a goal in either of the second or third periods in the eight games he's played.
Sens Zero: Peter Regin
Regin started the season in Paul MacLean's doghouse, but Jason Spezza's injury gave him a tremendous opportunity to get out of it. Instead, Regin's gone further into it. Not even playing against fellow Dane and former teammate Lars Eller could get Regin going tonight, even though it's worked in the past. He had zero shots in the game, finished -2, and if the reports are accurate and Stephane Da Costa is indeed on his way to Ottawa, Regin may very well find himself scratched for next game. He's a reliable penalty killer, but little else.
Sens Zero: Milan Michalek
With Spezza's injury, a lot of pressure fell onto the shoulders of Michalek. He's by far the most experienced scoring forward outside of Daniel Alfredsson, and it was hoped that he could generate some offence even without the assistance of his centreman. He's failed miserably in doing so. In 15:44 TOI against Montreal, including 1:14 on the powerplay, Michalek had zero shots on goal and was minus-1. Two months of invisibility simply isn't an option for Michalek; he needs to get going and find a way to produce offensively with consistency without relying on someone else to make it happen.
Sens Killer: Carey Price
Price stopped 32 of 33 shots faced and kept the Senators out. He preserved the Habs' lead and stood tall particularly in the second period, stopping all 16 shots faced in the middle frame. The only shot that beat him was a perfectly-placed breakaway roof-job by Silfverberg on the powerplay.