What a simultaneously thrilling yet aggravating ride that game was.
The Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets came out trading chances fast and furiously, but the first period was relatively tame despite all the scoring chances: Only Chris Neil scored, after a nice pass from Jason Spezza to the front of the net. Then all hell broke loose.
Five goals and a failed penalty shot in the second period kept everyone on the edge of their seats, and it had the feeling of a playoff game between two very young teams. Kaspars Daugavins put the Sens up 2-0 on a beautiful offensive display (I didn't think he had it in him, personally) before Antti Miettinen and Kyle Wellwood knotted the game up at two. Kyle Turris then gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead--for 20 seconds, before Miettinen scored his second of the game to tie the game heading into the second period.
Daniel Alfredsson put Ottawa ahead again in the third, and nearly 15 minutes passed and it looked like the teams might have been done scoring--but they weren't. Evander Kane tied it up with a questionable goal (more on that later), but Alfredsson came through once again and put Ottawa up for good just 24 seconds after Kane's goal. Milan Michalek potted an empty-netter from his own zone, and that was all she wrote. Six goals for the Sens gives them 14 in the last two games.
It's obvious to see why the Jets were throwing everything they had at the Sens, as the loss pretty much extinguished their already-miniscule chances of making the playoffs. It's been a pretty exciting year for Winnipeg fans, but the Cinderella story seemed too good to be true. Still, the team made a statement this season, and they made a statement on Monday night against the Sens.
Sens Hero: Jason Spezza
Spezza made the Winnipeg Jets look like freakin' traffic cones on more than one occasion. In the first, he deked around Mark Stuart to the outside, and flipped the puck to the front of the net for Chris Neil to tuck home the lose pass. Then he took a couple of (very questionable) penalties, and got angry. Angry Spezza dangled through most of the Jets team, some of them twice, before dishing the puck to Kyle Turris to give Ottawa a short-lived lead.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
During the first intermission, I tweeted my opinion that Karlsson was having a bad game. I'm now pretty sure the problem was with me, and I wasn't watching closely enough, because he was strong. Very strong. He continues to use his active stick and body positioning to angle oncoming forwards to the outside (I'd like to see him completely negate the shooting chance, but driving it to a lower-percentage part of the ice is better than letting them but down the middle), and even took the body very impressively on Dustin Byfuglien.
Did I mention the three assists? All were obviously attributed to his smooth skating, but the first two had more to do with Spezza's play after the pass than Karlsson's pass to Spezza; still, they all count. The third, though, was an outstanding (and quite risky) offensive-zone read the intercept a breakout pass and set Alfredsson in front of the net. Beauties.
Sens Hero: Daniel Alfredsson
It's been repeated quite a bit this season, but Alfie looked about 10 years younger than he actually is tonight. HE notched two of the biggest goals in the game, one a go-ahead marker and the other the eventual game-winner, and led by example whenever he was on the ice. There wasn't likely a shift where you didn't notice him.
Sens Hero: Kaspars Daugavins
Where did that deke come from? Daugavins went around a couple of Jets defenders and waited patiently for Ondrej Pavelec to commit before potting his fifth goal of the season. He almost did it again later, too, but the shot was blocked.
Overall Zero: Refs
Whooo boy, Dan O'Rourke and Danny LaRue did just about everything they could to give the Jets an extra point or two in this one. Between weak calls (including one on Sergei Gonchar, whose resultant powerplay led to the Jets' first goal), non-calls (including a trip on Erik Condra that wasn't called, and was followed moments later by Evander Kane's goal), and a play that sure looked like goaltender interference (that same Kane goal), it wasn't a shining example of the abilities of NHL referees.
Perhaps most questionable, though, was the penalty shot awarded to Kyle Wellwood. First, a review of the NHL rulebook, rule number 24 in particular:
24.1 Penalty Shot - A penalty shot is designed to restore a scoring opportunity which was lost as a result of a foul being committed by the offending team, based on the parameters set out in these rules.
I'm sure most of you saw the play, but if you didn't, know this: Daugavins feebly tried to knock Wellwood's stick, didn't come close, and Wellwood took a shot; that shot representing a scoring opportunity. All's well that ends well and Wellwood didn't score in the penalty shot, but it was a call that left many scratching their heads.
Honourable Mention: Chris Phillips, Jared Cowen
A team-leading 3:50 SH TOI and a plus-one rating, I just liked Phillips' game tonight. Cowen might have finished minus-two, but he was a physical presence for the first time in a while (he had a team-high four hits) and made some pretty good rushes, most memorably while short-handed where he knocked a good 10 seconds off the penalty.
Dishonourable Mention: Erik Condra
Erik Condra is a good player defensively. Once he gets on the offensive side of the defensive blue line, though, his worth plummets. I don't want to give him too much of a hard time because he does offer something to the team--he played 2:24 short-handed tonight--but he's still got a lot to work on to round out his game. I will, however, give Condra credit: With time running out and the game on the line, he was on the ice. Defensively, he's got the trust of Paul MacLean.