After a heartbreaking loss on Thursday, the Ottawa Senators stormed out to a commanding lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning with a strong first period, but they took their feet off the gas pedal and nearly blew it. The Lightning just ran out of time, though, and the Sens managed to cling to their lead for a 5-3 win on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams traded chances for the first half of the period, but Ottawa scored four goals in just over seven minutes to take a big lead (and chase Mathieu Garon out of the nets in the process) before the period was over. The 4-0 lead combined with a compelling victory by Matt Kassian in a fight with B.J. Crombeen made it look like the rout was on, but the second period brought something else.
Actually, the second period brought... very little. The Lightning out-shot the Sens by a 14-7 score, but Robin Lehner made some great stops and protected the four-goal lead his team had put in place.
In the final frame, the Lightning stormed back--thanks in large part to hummingbird Tyler Johnson, an undersized undrafted forward who evaded coverage to score back-to-back goals and give the Lightning a bit of life. Teddy Purcell scored with less than two minutes left to make it a one-goal game, but Daniel Alfredsson scored his second of the afternoon to ice the win for the Senators.
Sens Hero: Marc Methot
Methot returned from injury with an outstanding performance that featured a couple of assists. He was on the ice for four of Ottawa's goals (and one of Tampa's), and seemed to bring out the best in Eric Gryba--the combination seems like one that could work as a very good shutdown pairing. Methot's positional play and very smooth skating presents a pretty good one-man transition game, where he can single-handedly take the puck from an opponent and turn it back on them. He's no Erik Karlsson, obviously, but he's impressed me with his ability to advance the puck this season, and that game was at its best on Saturday.
Sens Hero: Daniel Alfredsson
Alfie had a couple of goals, including the one that turned out to be the game-winner as well as the empty-netter that salted away the win, plus he had a team-high five shots on goal. Since the mid-season point, Daniel Alfredsson has looked like a guy with a lot left in the tank--not just this season, but moving forward as well. I'm not sure if he's going to return next year, but he definitely looks like he can.
Honourable Mention: Guillaume Latendresse
This was another strong game for Latendresse, even though he was victimized by Johnson's quickness and was on for all three Tampa goals. His goal was a strong demonstration of persistence, and he's bounced back from his injury to impress a lot of observers and make a case to be re-signed by the Senators. If he can continue this strong effort for the rest of the year, he's got a place on this team.
Sens Killer: Tyler Johnson
Johnson's just 5'9" and 182 pounds, but that was an advantage for him against the Sens: He was buzzing around the net and was wide open in front of Lehner for both goals he scored thanks to his slipperiness. He's not Martin St. Louis, obviously, but their of the same ilk.