Sens 3rd Period comeback falls short; lose 4-3 to Nashville in OT

Hemsky tried his best, but Weber and the Preds were too much for the Sens tonight - USA Today Sports

The Sens started this game 4 points out of the last wildcard spot and needed a solid showing against a cold Predators team who had gone 1-3-0 in their last 4, and had only scored 3 goals over that stretch. Amelia had a great feature earlier w/ the Predators SBN, On the Forecheck.

First Period

The Sens started this game sheepishly, as Nashville raced out to a 8-1 lead in shots early; ended the period 16-7 shot advantage. Michalek - Spezza - Hemsky had a couple of great chances in the Nashville end, capped off with a ridiculous save by Rinne on Erik Karlsson. Systems-wise? There was a ton of dump-ins, which isn't good compared with carrying the puck into the zone with possession. Surprisingly, ice-time allocation wasn't a concern, forward leaders after one were: Turris, Spezza, Ryan, Hoffman, Hemsky, Michalek (at EV).

An offensive-zone penalty by Zibanejad turned out to be a dangerous, as first, Anderson was hit in the collarbone by a Weber shot, and shortly after, Cody Ceci took a rising Weber slapshot to the side of the head, which led to a ton of blood, but thankfully, left the ice under his own strength. The team later stated that he had suffered a laceration behind his right ear and wouldn't return. (GIF via @TheScore)

For my recaps, I'd like to do something a little different and incorporate a great resource we have available via a site called Extra Skater. Among other things, a shot attempt graph is created, which highlights swings in shot attempts as the game goes on. Sharp slopes indicate a lot of shot attempts for a team, and flatlines are bad, as it means that you aren't throwing anything at the net. The graph helps visualize Nashville's swarm of shots early, before the Sens started to move their feet later in the period.

Second Period

The Sens started the second period like how they started the first - sloppy. Multiple icings and only 2 shots on goal in the first 8 minutes of the period eventually led to a Nick Spaling goal after an "almost-Senator" Michael Del Zotto point shot.

The bad news didn't end there, as after a lost defensive zone faceoff by Zibanejad, Ekholm fired a point shot through, and Craig Smith deflected home his 19th of the year for a 2-0 lead.

The Methot - Karlsson pairing have had some trouble communicating this game, and got lucky in the first with a Fisher chance in the first that didn't cost them. However, in the second, Methot misplayed a puck flipped into the zone and it went right to Nystrom (!) who potted it.

Ton of flatlines for the Sens in that period, which isn't good at all. Shots ended up being 7 - 3 in favour of Nashville, who stacked the NZ on various occasions and didn't let the Sens enter their zone with control at all.

Third Period

I don't watch Nashville very much, but one thing I've noticed is their communication before the draw and the variety of set plays they have. They had scored twice off point shots after an offensive zone win, and drew a penalty on Turris after he held Mike Fisher down.

With 15:52 left in the third period, the #LehnerWasReleased after Anderson gets bowled over by Michalek, who was trying to defend a 2-on-1. Thankfully, he too leaves the ice under his own strength, and goes straight into the dressing room.

Ottawa finally got on board with 12:05 left in the period with JARED COWEN exhibiting strong board skills to pass the puck to Spezza, who gave it back while #2 crashed the net for his 5th of the year. You'll start to notice a pattern from here on out, with the Hemsky - Spezza - Michalek doing yeoman's work in the offensive zone to generate a chance, and this time, a goal.

After the Cowen goal, the Sens decided they gave a crap about this game, and started peppering Rinne with shots. One observation I had was the number of controlled zone entries increasing, and the hard work paid off. With 9:26 left in the period, Hemsky drew two Preds to him before feeding Spezza behind the net, who slid the puck over the Methot for his 6th of the year.

Erik Karlsson, who wasn't very noticeable earlier in the game, had an incredible sequence where he sped back and stripped a Preds player off the puck, before circling around, deking through Fisher, and entering the zone once again - almost setting up Ryan for the tying goal.

With 1:07 left in the 3rd, our heroes complete the comeback with... GUESS WHO... Hemsky - Spezza - Michalek. Strong board work with Hemsky on the halfwall and Spezza behind the net led to the puck working its way back to Karlsson, who's attempt at the net was blocked before Hemsky fired a crisp pass through to Spezza who tied the game with 1:07 left.

WHERE WERE THESE OTTAWA SENATORS ALL GAME.

Overtime

Some of the best Sens hockey I've seen in a while, with the offensive talent getting the minutes (hint hint: I barely saw Greening - Smith - Neil on the ice after the Sens scored their first goal). Bobby Ryan almost finished the game with a sweet backhand toedrag, and on the shift after, Michalek almost potted one with a power move to the net. Things were looking great until the Sens got mixed up at the point, which led to two Nashville Predators pressuring Chris Phillips off the puck. Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones (2 DEFENSEMAN) then waltzed down on a 40-ft 2-0, and Jones tucked Ellis' rebound under Lehner's pad for the game-winner.

GIF via @BonksMullethe Sens blitz on the Nashville net is clearly evident in the graph below, and it's one of the steepest slopes I've seen all season. All in all, it was a high event 25 minutes, with the Sens catching up in possession after a lackluster effort to start.

Thoughts

I hate to read into players' body language, but through the first two periods, the team really looked uninspired. What's more confusing is that the top-6 (Turris + Spezza lines) were given the most ice-time at even strength, but were still outpossessed through 2, although the Spezza line had at least generated some chances offensively. The Sens looked particularly prone to Nashville's set plays off the faceoff (game totals: 37-35 NSH), and I'm not particularly sure if it has to do with lack of communication for defensive positioning after a defensive-zone loss, but it's something that the Preds capitalized on (2 of their goals). After Nashville went up by 3, they seemed to sit back, and this looks like a systems thing, as they have the 4th worst Corsi % when up by 2+ goals.

Also, this:

Despite the loss and uninspiring start, the Sens really poured it on in the 3rd and picked up a point for their effort. Unfortuantely, they sit 5 points back with 17 games left, and will need to have a consistent effort (and some luck) in order to make the playoffs.

Sens Heroes:

Hemsky - Spezza

I'm a huge fan of Hemsky, who's ice-time dwindled in Edmonton, but who's always been offensively creative and a strong puck possession player. I didn't think he'd work with Spezza per se, due to their "pass-first" mentality, but the results speak for themselves. Even though they're scoring at a pretty unsustainable rate (Hemsky has an assist per period), they're generating a ton of chances.

Jared Cowen

I know it's a low bar, but I didn't see any "oh Cowen" moments tonight, and he had two pretty nice plays: 1) his boardplay and then instinct to drive the net to receive the Spezza pass on the first goal, and 2) his keep in at the line late in the 3rd period to sustain pressure. Cowen and Gryba were both positive possession players. Wouldn't be opposed to "Brent Burns"-ing him either ;)

Paul MacLean

Despite the comments he spewed about Kassian earlier, that made my blood boil, MacLean managed the ice-time well tonight. Ceci went down early, so all of the D were above 20 minutes in ice-time. I noticed that after Methot's rough night (see Sens zeroes), Karlsson played with pretty much anybody.

Also, MacLean didn't "throw his lines into a blender" and instead, stuck with his groupings, which ended up earning his team a point. Turris, Ryan, Spezza, Michalek, Hemsky, Hoffman were the clear leaders in ice-time, with all above 17 mins. Zibanejad even played more than Greening - Neil!!

Sens Zeroes:

Marc Methot

Despite his goal, him and Karlsson were a mess early in the game, and MacLean seemed to have identified this, with Methot playing less than Gryba, Cowen, and Phillips after playing a lot early. A lot of little miscues defensively, especially on the 3rd goal, and there seemed to be a lack of communication between him and Karlsson.

Thanks for reading!

Final GIF, via @BonksMullet

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