"You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!" No, that wasn't Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, it was Pascal Leclaire. Worse still, Leclaire was comforting Craig Anderson, who was pulled less than five minutes into his first start back from injury. The worst part? Ottawa's alleged goaltending strength looked very much like the goaltending that has plagued the Senators in the past.
This game was over when Anderson was pulled. Anderson let in a stoppable goal from Erik Cole on the first shot of the game at 29 seconds to put the Sens behind early. Sadly, instead of high-fiving the ref, Cole would score the second goal of the game. He completed his hat-trick on the powerplay, scoring on Anderson's replacement Ben Bishop, who had been in the game less than a minute. 10 shots and less than ten minutes into the game, Ottawa was down by 4 goals.
Ottawa has a reputation as a penalty-prone team with a willingness to drop the gloves and the Sens brought the silly early. After going down by a goal early, Konopka picked a fight with Brad Staubitz to try and alter Ottawa's fortunes. Instead, the onslaught continued and the Sens march to penalty box went on all night. The lone Ottawa highlight of the game came with 13 seconds left in the first period, when Jason Spezza notched his 30th goal of the season (for the fourth time in his career) on a slick feed from a falling Milan Michalek. Collective truculence at the end of the period saw the Sens start the second on the penalty kill with an entire forward line in the box.
MacLean brought Anderson back in to start the second. It was a logical move as Bishop was underwhelming in relief and Andy needs game time. The Sens were the better team in the second, but came away with nothing for their efforts. The closest Ottawa came was a Daniel Alfredsson goal that was waved-off for an apparent high stick. The officials reviewed the play, but the replay was too close to alter the on-ice decision, and the call stood. Montreal's reputation as small and soft certainly helped them in the period. They were able to maul and tackle Ottawa in front of Carey Price with little consequence. I know not everyone agrees with my opinions on NHL refereeing, but the imbalance that was shown (especially in the second period, probably as a response to MacLean's vocal complaints) was simply awful. Did the zebras cost the Sens the game? No, not in the way they called the game nor in waving off the captain's goal. Did Ottawa deserve most of the calls that went against them? Yes. Did the non-calls in front of the Montreal net help this game get out of hand? Absolutely.
The third period was much of the same. Neil, roughing. Konopka, roughing. Misconduct, misconduct, misconduct. Montreal scored a third period goal and the game ended 5-1 to incredibly irritating chants of "olé, olé, olé, olé". How about "lottery pick, lottery pick, lottery pick". Shots: 38-32 in favor of Ottawa.
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Sens Zeroes: Chris Neil, Zenon Konopka, and Nick Foligno
This was Neil and Konopka at their worst. Neil had 33 penalty minutes and two 10 minute misconducts. Konopka had 19 penalty minutes and a game misconduct. Konopka's fight in the first period didn't change momentum. Neil's ill-timed fight, roughing minor, and misconduct at the end of the first period put the Sens on the penalty kill to start the second and squashed any potential momentum generated by Spezza's goal. Both Konopka and Neil ushered in a game with no flow and a night that saw the Sens take 92 penalty minutes. Foligno's 12 penalty minutes pale in comparison to Neil and Konopka, but his first period misconduct and inability to draw penalties tonight suggest he is being thought of in the same category as #25 and #28 (tough guy/goon) more and more. This is a problem. Nick isn't elite, but he does have value and can contribute. He can't do this from inside the penalty box.
Sens Zeroes: Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop
The Sens poor play of late has not been the fault of Ottawa's goaltending. The lack offense (which was on display again tonight) has hampered this team. However, tonight the goaltending was awful. It wasn't just the amount of goals it was the way they were scored. The first goal on Andy (fluttering shot that went off his glove and in) was devastating.
Sens Killer: Erik Cole
Natural hat-trick in six minutes. Game over.