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Senators blow 3-goal lead, lose 4-3 to Canadiens

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Those of you good at math will realize this headline means that at one point, Ottawa was up 3-0. Parade plans were quickly foiled as the young Senators let a team they should have put away back into the game. After dominating the first half of the second period, a Chris Phillips boarding call (it was a borderline call, but there's nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution) put Montreal on the powerplay and they converted in pretty short order. After that, the remainder of the period was a Senators parade to the box. Montreal left the period only down a goal and up in shots 22-18--at one point they had been down by as many as nine shots.

Ottawa staggered out to start the third but found their momentum again as Montreal became more desperate to score. It was very noteworthy, in my opinion, that the team did not fall back into a shell to try to protect the lead--an Ottawa trademark going back to Jacques Martin. Whether this is the influence of new head coach Paul MacLean or just the result of kids trying to fight for jobs remains to be seen, but it was encouraging.

Until 19:23 of the third, when some interesting defensive coverage on a faceoff allowed Scott Gomez to tie the game and send it to overtime. After some pretty boring 4-on-4, the Sens demonstrated that they haven't practiced any new shootout moves over the summer. Isn't that what shinny is for?

Sens Killer: Max Pacioretty
The name may sound familiar to you because this is the guy that was on the receiving end of a controversial Zdeno Chara hit late last year. Clearly healthy, there wasn't much doubt about who was the best player on the ice tonight: Pacioretty had two goals on nine (You read that number right. He outshot the Sens' top line by himself, 9-7.) shots, and was pretty much responsible for all of the Habs' best scoring chances. While it was great to see him make such a great comeback from such a serious injury, I hope he doesn't have the same success against Ottawa when the games count.

Sens Hero: Zack Smith
Z. Smith probably locked up the third line center job tonight with a two-goal (one shorthanded), one-fight, zero stupid penalty night. In fact, Z. Smith's line looked strong all game, combining strong forechecking with plenty of puck possession and more than a few decent chances. It obviously doesn't hurt that he put two pucks in the net and two fists in the face of 6'6" Jarred Tinordi (Z. Smith is just 6'2") which means he does the things Chris Kelly didn't do on our third line. Kelly has his name on the Cup, though, so there is that.

(read on for more impressions...)

The Auditions: Success

Stephane Da Costa - Must have had a drink with Egg Shen or something. The difference between this game and his last one was extreme. Not only was his faceoff percentage (13 of 18, .722) best on the team, but he looked more and more comfortable with his linemates, Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek, as the game continued. I was so impressed with his vision and hustle that I think you'd have to consider him the top contender for the second line center position right now. Maybe this will give him the confidence to one day find the shaman that shrank his head and avenge himself.

Nikita Filatov - Simply put, he was the hardest working player for the Senators tonight. I noticed him making plays in his own end. I noticed him putting on bursts of speed to get open. I noticed him passing to open teammates. I noticed him fighting for pucks along the boards in the offensive zone. It's difficult to say what the future holds for him, but it doesn't seem like work ethic is going to be a problem. I was very impressed.

Erik Condra - Ready for a third line role. There was a span in the third where he pinned a Montreal player against the wall for a good ten seconds while battling for the puck in the offensive zone. It popped free, and got sent right back against the boards. What did Condra do? Pin the same guy for another ten seconds. Colin Greening-Z. Smith-Erik Condra? Yes, please.

The Auditions: Failure

Mark Borowiecki - This was the first chance I had to watch him and I came away unimpressed. He has the awesome nickname, but not the awesome game to go along with it. That's not to say that I think he'll never make it, but it seemed to me that he didn't quite understand his responsibilities in Paul MacLean's system. Maybe that's simply a function of being a rookie trying to take in a ton of information. Maybe it's not. Tonight, he didn't look like the kind of player who could win battles against full-time NHL players.

Patrick Wiercioch - Also not ready for prime time. Not as noticeable as Borowiecki, but nonetheless, can't be pressed into NHL duty and be expected to succeed.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau - I was really excited to see him tonight, so maybe my disappointment is magnified by my expectations, but he looked small and played small--and that's when I noticed him at all.

The Regulars: Success

Jason Spezza - Nothing to see here. Still Ottawa's best player. Made some sick passes tonight, setting up Z. Smith's shorthanded goal, and putting a no-look drop pass right on the tape of a trailing Bobby Butler for a glorious scoring chance--my definition of chemistry.

Brian Lee - Plus-one in 24:36 of ice time with two shots and one hit. Except for one silly stumble on his own blueline which created a scoring chance for Montreal, Lee was solid. Right now I consider him a better option than Matt Carkner.

Erik Karlsson - Smooth is the word that comes to mind. There's not a doubt in my mind that Karlsson will be Ottawa's best defenseman this year, and will have a better season that the last. Still not a big guy, his game looks to have improved just about everywhere else. Just... smooth.

Daniel Alfredsson - Didn't look like a guy who had back surgery.

Milan Michalek - He has jets. He used them. He scored. The only question is whether or not he can make it through a whole season without wearing down.

The Regulars: Failure

Craig Anderson - At one point I had him down as a Sens hero, but then it just seemed like he lost focus as the game wore on. There were a few shots that fooled him, a few that beat him, and a few that he simply lost track of after making the first save. That doesn't mean it's panic time; he was still very strong in the first half of the game. It was almost like he wasn't prepared when the pace of the game picked up and couldn't find the gear he needed to. Worth an eyebrow raise and nothing more.

Highlights

Forthcoming