Friday night's game has been over for a while now, and I'm still trying to gather my thoughts on it. It certainly wasn't a game the Senators "deserved" to win; they were badly outplayed for very long stretches, and tripled in shots by a 33-11 shot count. The New Jersey Devils out-worked the Senators, but they couldn't get anything past Craig Anderson to get into the game.
The first period, really, set the tempo: Ottawa was being out-worked along the boards in the defensive end, and couldn't for the life of them gain and sustain possession of the puck. As a result, they ran into penalty troubles mid-way through, but managed to get through them by the skin of their teeth (thanks, again, to Anderson). They left the first lucky to be in a scoreless draw.
Things turned around somewhat in the second, starting with Jean-Gabriel Pageau's first NHL goal: After Colin Greening flipped a backhand shot at Martin Brodeur, Pageau set up in front of the net and got his stick on it--and was very, very excited and very, very, very assertive that the goal was, in fact, his. The youthful exuberance he displayed after the goal is part of the fun of watching a rebuilding team. And just a few minutes later, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson broke in on a two-on-one, and Michalek cashed in on the set-up pass to score in his first game back in the lineup.
Jersey really controlled the third--Ottawa managed just two shots--but again, Anderson shut the door and preserved Ottawa's lead. Although the Sens managed to mostly keep play along the boards, they couldn't gain control of the puck. After an intense late-game flurry when the Devils pulled their goalie with over two minutes remaining, things wrapped up and Ottawa walked away with their third win over New Jersey this season--and a very valuable two points in the standings.
One thing's for sure: Ottawa's luck seems to shine against the Devils. Tonight's game seemed a counter-point to the team's recent loss to the Florida Panthers, in that one team was badly out-played and out-shot but the other team managed to get a couple goals and take the two points--despite not "deserving" it. It goes to show that more often than not, these sorts of things tend to balance out.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Andy was THE Sens Hero tonight, and he's the guy who powered Ottawa to victory. He was especially impressive in the penalty-filled first period, being a huge part of the Senators' successful kill of a very long 5-on-3 as well as another full penalty. Although it's too soon to say, Anderson might be back to his old tricks.
Sens Hero: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
JGP scored his first NHL goal tonight and continued his torrid point-per-game pace, and also played nearly 13 minutes in the game--more than either Mika Zibanejad and Cory Conacher. He wasn't protected, either, with four faceoffs in the defensive zone and none in the offensive. He was only 4-for-9 on the dot, but it was still a very impressive game for the rookie.
Sens Hero: Milan Michalek
Michalek may have just returned from knee surgery, but he sure didn't look it on Friday night. He scored a goal thanks to his great speed, and also earned a great scoring chance late in the game (drawing a penalty that could easily have been a penalty shot in the process). He's not why the Sens won, but he's another weapon in Paul MacLean's arsenal and the team will definitely benefit from his presence as the wind down the regular season.
Honourable Mention: Zack Smith
I want you to do something for me next game: Watch how often Zack Smith gets deep in the defensive zone, grabs the puck, and skates it out and into the offensive end. It's amazing; he's less a forward and more a rover out there, and even though he's a necessary help to the defenders--who have well-documented struggles getting the puck out of the zone--it goes a long way in explaining why Smith might be scoring a little bit less than one would hope. As to his game on Friday, he was helping out the defenders as usual, but also finishing his checks all over the ice. He was horrendous on the dot (4-for-14 on faceoffs), but I guess you can't have it all.
Honourable Mention: Daniel Alfredsson
Alfie was on tonight. He was hustling all night long, set up Michalek for the game-winning goal, and definitely brought a lot of intensity to the game. Basically, he captained.
Honourable Mention: Chris Phillips
Chris Phillips played 4:33 short-handed in this game, and he did it quite well--one memorable PK moment of his (sorry I can't give more details, I forget when it happened) was a single-handed pass interception and puck-clear during Eric Gryba's second-period penalty. Phillips' strong suit isn't in advancing the puck, but he's an effective defender against an along-the-board team like the Devils.