If anyone was wondering what this #PeskySens thing is all about, they needed only to have watch the Ottawa Senators' game against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night to find out. The Sens demonstrated their characteristic resiliency to come back from deficits twice in the game to secure one point in the standings, even if the final result was a 4-3 shootout win for the Habs.
As is usually the case, Ottawa allowed the first goal when Lars Eller drove the net and cashed in on a nice pass from Gabriel Dumont to put Montreal up 1-0. Just a few minutes later, though, Ottawa's Lazarus-like powerplay cashed in when Jakob Silfverberg tossed a perfect pass to Mika Zibanejad in the slot. Robin Lehner stopped 16 of 17 shots in the first period, and the teams went to the dressing room knotted at ones.
The Sens ran into penalty trouble in the second, and Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban scored goals with the man-advantage for the Habs to give them a two-goal lead and put them in the driver's seat. It looked like the Sens were down for the count through the period, but Daniel Alfredsson scored a goal no one else noticed with barely any time left on the clock. That didn't bother Alfredsson, though; as play went on and the buzzer went off, he casually continued celebrating and went by the bench for his fist-bumps. There was no doubt in his mind that the puck went in, and video review showed that the puck hit the net's back bar and bounced out. Good goal, and the Sens were down by one after two.
Early in the third, Patrick Wiercioch tied the game up with a beauty fake-and-cut goal that fooled Carey Price and probably surprised Wiercioch himself, too. Although the Sens were out-shot 13-3 in the final frame, they managed to cling on (thanks in large part to the Lehner) and get themselves a point.
Overtime happened, shots were exchanged, but no goals were scored so the game went to the shootout--where, characteristically, Lehner struggled. Also characteristically, Silfverberg scored a beauty, but Lehner's continued shootout ineffectiveness have to be a concern. He's allowed six goals on ten shots in the skills competition, which isn't going to help his team win many games that make it that far. Expect him to go back to the drawing board and load up a pitching machine with hockey pucks in his hotel room tonight.
But through it all, the Sens earned yet another point in the standings, and they're 6-2-4 in the last 12 games. I'm not a big fan of the loser point, but I'm happy to see the Sens taking full advantage of it for the time being.
Sens Hero: Marc Methot
Although Methot had no points tonight, he stood out big-time to me in all the best ways. He had a few shots and a few hits, but was effective in moving the puck out of the Sens' zone at even strength and on the powerplay. He played 25:40 for Ottawa, which was third-most among defenders (less than Sergei Gonchar or Chris Phillips), but looked to me like the team's top defender.
Sens Hero: Daniel Alfredsson
That goal was clutch, and his nonchalance in celebrating it was badass. He was hit-and-miss aside from the goal, but his confidence is hopefully something that the rest of the team can learn from. It's a tremendous asset.
Honourable Mention: Sergei Gonchar
Gonchar led the team with over 30 minutes of ice time, and he stretched his point streak to five games with an assist on Alfie's goal. It wasn't his strongest game in the defensive end, but he deserves credit for taking on a lot of responsibility on the blue line. I'm wondering, though, if Gonchar can keep this up; after a seeing his ice time dropped a bit in the previous few games, Gonchar has played 26:20, 27:29, and 30:13 in his last three games. He's 38 years old. That amount of minutes has got to take its toll.
Honourable Mention: Patrick Wiercioch
Aside from his glorious goal, Wiercioch just had a generally good game. Aside from an untimely third-period hooking penalty, Wiercioch didn't make any big mistakes I can recall--although he was limited to just 13:36 TOI, which probably helps explain why Gonchar's ice time was so high. Montreal is a quick-strike team so it makes sense to minimize the ice time given to Wiercioch, but I'm not sure why he played more than 12 minutes less than Eric Gryba at even strength. That just seems weird. Trustache, I guess.
Corsi Curiosity: Andre Benoit
Benoit led the Senators with a +8 Corsi rating on the night; only he, Wiercioch, and Jim O`Brien had positive measures of that statistic. Yet he only played 9:15 at even-strength in the game.
Honourable Mention: Mark Stone
Stone played just 5:51 in the game, none of which was on the powerplay. Despite that, I think he stood out as a positive presence. A chintzy interference call in the second tarnished his stats line, but he finished with a few hits and a good presence on the forecheck. My best guess is that Paul MacLean was reticent to play him much in a high-stakes game against the top team in the conference, but I saw nothing to suggest that Stone was a liability out there.
Growing Pains: Robin Lehner
This was not Lehner's best game, even though he stopped 42 of 45 shots faced. Two of the goals should probably have been stopped, and his shootout performance was poor. But you've got to take the bad with the good when watching a rookie goaltender, I suppose: He also made some great saves in the game, and it's not one the Sens would necessarily have fared better in with a different netminder.
Sens Killer: Brendan Gallagher
Not a fan of this kid. I bet Lehner likes him even less. He's effective, though, and pretty much impossible to check.
Check out all those shots from in close to the Ottawa net. And this is with very limited ice time given to Ottawa's least physically assertive defencemen; maybe that's part of the explanation of why Wiercioch and Benoit were used so sparingly in the game: Montreal's a team that drives the net hard. That was clearly evident with the Eller and Pacioretty goals.