Columbus has always seemed like an odd opponent to me, since they're technically an Eastern Conference foe, but the fact that they've been here for just one year means no rivalry has really had the chance to develop. The Red Wings had the added benefit of
stealing signing Daniel Alfredsson to brew immediate distrust among Senators fans, but most view Ottawa's Nick Foligno-for-Marc Methot trade as a win-win type of trade. All this to say that the hate factor to start the game was about as low as it could be for an all-East match-up. Probably the biggest story coming in was that both the Sens and the Blue Jackets came in with impressive 3-1-0 records. The Sens' was impressive because nearly all pundits picked them to be a lottery team, and Jackets' because they were missing key cogs Brandon Dubinsky, Nathan Horton, Boone Jenner, and Ryan Murray. Games between winning teams are always more exciting, and this one promised to provide excitement.
It must have been a slow first period, because I had very few notes about the game itself. I noticed that Bob Cole was very complimentary of Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson, that Curtis Lazar has adopted his landlord's pointing technique, and that yet another Tim Horton's dark roast ad convinced me to turn to the American feed. Every time the Sens did something right, they followed it up by getting hemmed in their zone or by some sloppy giveaways. This allowed Robin Lehner to make several great saves, including this robbery of Alexander Wennberg, who was looking for his first NHL goal.
Hoffman was easily the Sens' player of the period, building off Cole's praise by streaking in and drawing a penalty shot. He tried the (Peter) Forsberg on the penalty shot, but ex-Sens goaltender Curtis McElhinney didn't bite.
Today I've heard McElhinney called a former Senator more times than the number of games he played for the Sens— Ross ShCrazy (@Sheer_Craziness) October 18, 2014
(Seriously though, he played seven games as a trade deadline acquisition for the team in 2011. Stop trying to force a narrative.)
Hoffman followed this up by opening the scoring with some slick hands and skating, though David Legwand got credited with the goal since he actually did the act of putting the puck in the net. Chris Neil got an assist on the play, giving him a two-game points streak. Looks like his linemates last year were holding him back.
The Sens (and my fantasy team) got a late scare, when Jack Johnson went knee-on-knee with Mark Stone, the latter of whom went immediately to the dressing room. But the Sens went on the powerplay, and drew another penalty to stay on the powerplay for the rest of the period, keeping the 1-0 lead.
Best moment of the period: The #Lumbus announcers' pronunciation of Michael Chaput. They called him "sha-POO!!!!", apparently relishing the chance to shout the word "poo" as loudly as possible while on TV.
The best news for the Sens came early, when Mark Stone was back on the ice. Keeping with the good-then-bad theme of the game, Cam Atkinson was allowed to glide in and shoot a rebound off the crossbar. The Sens were lucky to not concede on that play. The Sens caught a lucky break shortly after, when Nick Foligno forgot which team he played for, and ran his own goalie. Unfortunately for him, Karlsson had passed the puck to the net, and Foligno carried it into the net. McElhinney was unable to continue, and Sergei Bobrovsky had to come on in relief. The refs declared that "the decision on the ice stands" after a long review, which was pretty funny since none of the refs made any call on the ice. They went on to explain that this give the Sens a goal.
However, this was where the good luck ended for the Senators. Whether Curtis Lazar felt bad about having the lead on an own-goal, or whether he was still bitter at Zack Smith for stealing his first NHL goal, Lazar scored his first NHL goal into his own net (credited to Foligno). 41 seconds later, David Savard fired home a slapshot from the point, a shot which a screened Lehner never tracked. Suddenly, the score was tied. The second period ended, setting up a third period that was anybody's game.
12 seconds into the period, Karlsson made a sharp turn, causing Scott Hartnell to tumble past him into the boards, which was the first incident of #HartnellDown I noticed in the game. The third period itself was pretty wide open, with lots of end-to-end hockey and very few whistles. Eventually, Hoffman (who else) spun straw out of gold, picking up a deflected Neil dump-in attempt, and deking through both Jackets defenders, beating Bobrovsky high on the backhand. It was a goal on which both Jackets' defenders should have got the puck, but Hoffman's speed and desire somehow turned it into a goal.
The goal would stand up as the game-winner, despite a late Jackets push. Incredibly, Paul MacLean decided to put the Neil line out for the last minute with the game on the line, even though Chris Neil lacks the ability to control the puck or clear the zone. Lehner stood tall enough, and the scrambly defense was scrappy enough to keep the puck out of the net. Final score: Ottawa 3, Columbus 2.
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
This was Hoffman's game. He was given a chance to prove his worth, replacing the scratched Erik Condra. He more than delivered, with a goal, an assist, and a drawn penalty shot. His speed was on full display, despite the fact that he was put with arguably the slowest forwards on the team in Legwand and Neil. He also had the highest CF% Relative on the team. I picked him to be the biggest surprise of the season, and though it's only one game, I'm gonna toot my own horn as loud as it'll toot. I can't wait to see what happens when he gets put with real linemates.
Sens Hero: Robin Lehner
His rebound control was off tonight. But he made several spectacular saves to keep his team in it, played a chunk of the game without a neck protector after it broke, and finished with a .950 save percentage. That's amazing, and the only negative is that this team still seems to be playing a style that depends on the goalies to be spectacular.
Honourable Mention: Chris Neil
I think he was entirely a passenger on his line, but a multi-point game for anybody deserves a mention. He seemed to keep his aggression in check, even refusing to drop the gloves after Jared Boll had dropped his. I'm not a fan of what Neil brings to the team, but he played about as good a game as we can expect.
Sens and Jackets Killer: Nick Foligno
Actual former Senator Foligno knocked his own goalie out of the game, but then put up a goal and an assist as well. Nobody can say they did more harm to both teams this game.
B_T's Shot Chart: