First, the good news: The Ottawa Senators won today despite not playing their best game.
Now, some bad news: The team lost Nick Foligno for 6-8 weeks due to a broken leg.
Next, some good news: Foligno will score upon his return.
The Sens got goals from Alex Kovalev, Jason Spezza, and Mike Fisher to win this game, and once again, it came down to team effort. For reasons I am unable to explain, the team did not look as dominant with possession of the puck as they have in other games during this win streak, but they were still able to score when it counted. A big part of the challenge in this game was Montreal's defensive scheme, which saw the blue line and neutral zone heavily populated. There were a lot of plays on both sides where the teams would barely penetrate the offensive zone only to lose the puck and see the other team bat it into the neutral zone where it would be immediately turned over and the whole offensive rush would start over. Rinse and repeat.
Ottawa was able to break this cycle once early as Mike Fisher chose to dump the puck to the middle of the ice rather than a corner. Alex Kovalev split two players to retrieve the puck and was forced to circle the net. He turned around for a snap pass that just missed Foligno at the side of the net. However, defensive coverage was lax on Foligno and he was able to gather the puck and feed it back to thinly foreshadowed Sens Hero Erik Karlsson. Foligno's play and pass drew three Montreal players to that side of the ice, and Karlsson made an intelligent play, passing the puck to the opposite side of the pressure where his partner Filip Kuba was. Lost in this shuffle was Kovalev, who had sneaked to the same spot where he had just tried to hit Foligno. Kuba saw him immediately and fired a pass onto the tape. It was an easy tip-in for Kovalev, and gave the Senators a 1-0 lead.
To their credit, the Habs would not give up in this game despite some adversity that you can read about after the jump.
Sens Hero: Mike Fisher
Fisher only had one point on the night, but he played a pure Mike Fisher game. Unofficially credited with a thousand hits on the night, it wasn't hard to find him on the ice -- he was the guy flying around. There wasn't anything not to like about the game he played tonight, as he tied for a team best plus two rating, had three shots, and created play after play. Oh, and his one point just happened to be the game winning goal in overtime. What did he have to say about the goal?
"Yeah, you don’t see it too often, that’s for sure. I went in with speed and it was a great play by Karlsson. It was his play."
Mike Fisher, you are a true Sens Hero.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
Holy crap. Equally good was the team's rookie defenseman. Karlsson logged a team-leading 24:51 in ice time tonight, and deserved every minute of it, equaling Fisher with a plus two rating. He is going to create a lot of scoring chances for this team, and doesn't let his size prevent him from playing smart defense in his own zone. It's hard to believe that this is the same player who was sent down to Binghamton earlier in the year and scratched for a period during the World Junior Championships, which he was not released for. You can see he gets more and more of the game the more he plays. Nothing showed that better than his long pass in overtime to Fisher.
Playing three on three (yes, really) Mike Fisher won a faceoff in his own zone, dumping the puck behind his own net. Fisher then took off, afterburners on, down the right wing. Meanwhile, Karlsson retrieved the puck and rather than forcing a pass to Fisher, who was already open, he skated up to his blue line and let the play develop a little more. At this point Fisher was behind the defenders and all that was needed was a good pass. Karlsson was more than up to the task, putting it on Fisher's backhand -- in stride, blueline to blueline. Game over.
Sens Hero: Alex Kovalev
I'm so happy to write this, because Kovlalev needs to produce for this team to go anywhere, and he did not disappoint. One of the nicest things about this winning streak is seeing him play a slightly different game. He is still creating plenty of offense, as mentioned earlier, but he is not forcing it as he did early in the year. One gets the sense that he has some trust in his linemates and the system the team is playing. He's even backchecking and covering for pinching defensemen. The way he opened ice today was great to see. No one is probably happier about it than the team's top line.
Sens Zeroes: Ryan Shannon, Peter Regin, Jonathan Cheechoo
What the heck happened here? Regin, especially, was looking good earlier in this win streak and now plays eight minutes a game? These guys were largely invisible tonight and that's something the team can't afford especially with its best players going to the Vancouver in just a few weeks. Cheechoo is a large drop in talent from Kovalev, but that's no excuse. This was a very physical game, and perhaps Ottawa's smallest line wasn't well suited to that style of play, but it's pretty worrisome that they could be neutralized so quickly. With the other three lines rolling, there's a bit of a cushion, but this line still has the skills to generate offense. They need to step up and do so.
Sens Neutral: Filip Kuba
Great passes -- and I mean great -- from Kuba led to two of Ottawa's goals. It's frustrating to see him be able to play this way yet not do it consistently. Despite it being a physical game, Kuba did not rise to the challenge there. With Kovalev playing well, Kuba is Ottawa's biggest enigma.
Sens Killer: Montreal's Power Play
Ottawa came into the game having allowed no power play goals during their win streak, but were victimized for both goals while down a man. The Habs move the puck very well, and you could tell they had made some adjustments from the previous game against the Sens, where they went 0-for-6. In such a physical game, Ottawa dodged a bullet in not taking more penalties -- it's very likely Montreal could have converted a third time.
Unsung Heroes: Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov
They won't show on the scoresheet, but Ottawa's shutdown pair had a fantastic game. Volchenkov, who MUST be re-signed, absolutely obliterated Mike Cammalleri on a hit in the third. Cammalleri appeared to suffer a gruesome knee injury on the hit, which was clean, and we hope he's not seriously injured. Phillips, meanwhile, has suddenly become a pinching defensemen. He was behind Montreal's net several times today, something that was fun to see. It didn't stop him from hustling the entire length of the ice to pick up his assignment, which is simply badass. Unfortunately, Volchenkov showed that he is the worst shooter on the team, blowing a great opportunity close to the net, dribbling a shot on goal, and trickling a backhand towards the net. He needs some sniper lessons from his partner.
The Streak Continues: Jason Spezza has scored in every game since returning from injury. His power play tip-in deserves an assist from Milan Michalek, who screened Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Crap: Foligno's broken leg came on a shot block. I thought it went off his ankle, but either way, it was a gutsy play. No doubt from me that he's going to come back fired up.
Forthcoming so Peter can feel like he does something around here because Mark can't figure it out.
Next game is Wednesday at Buffalo. No need to point out how huge that game is.