From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, all in the space of twenty-four hours. Just one night after wiping out the Anaheim Ducks by a 6-2 count, the Senators fell to the Canadiens 4-1. The score line flatters the Habs a little bit, 5v5 play was virtually even, but there were long stretches when the Sens had a hard time exiting their own end. On more than one occasion, I found myself scribbling something along the lines of "team looks tired". They just didn't have quite the same jump. Chalk it up to hot goaltending, chalk it up to a schedule loss, chalk it up to bad luck, whatever you want, at the end of the day the Sens just weren't quite good enough to win.
The first few minutes of the game started as you would expect for a team on the road playing their second game in two nights and third in four: they were badly hemmed in. Erik Karlsson took a penalty and it looked like we were headed towards a long night. Just over a minute into the penalty kill, however, Erik Condra snuck past Andrei Markov to collect a rebound behind Carey Price and tap it into the net. Price badly misplayed the initial shot but credit to Condra for keeping his feet moving.
Unfortunately for the Sens, Condra's goal didn't stem the tide of pressure from the Habs who dominated the first half of the first period and got the tying goal on a bit of a softie from a sharp angle. Lehner made some great saves throughout the game, but this was not his finest moment. There was initially some confusion as to whether the puck had completely crossed the line, but a lengthy replay confirmed the call on the ice. The second half of the first period was much better for the Sens, with a couple of shifts from the Turris and Zibanejad lines standing out in particular. After one, the game was tied at ones and the shots were 10-9 in favour of the Senators.
The second period was mostly even play highlighted by a gem of a goal from the Habs' Galchenyuk line, who looked dangerous all night long. The goal is primarily a by-product of skilled players making skilled play, but both Ceci and Legwand could have done more defensively. First, the obvious: when the play starts in the Montreal end it's virtually a 3 on 3 if Legwand can get his ass in gear but he never does quite catch up completely. More on that in a second, but this is where things start to get bad:
The Habs are setting up to attack Ceci two on one here, and so far he's in decent position, if perhaps a bit too close to the side boards for my liking.
In the above frame, though, Ceci's now definitely too far to the sideboards and the Habs player is cutting right down the middle to where he should be. If there was backside pressure from Legwand it might make sense to attempt to cut off the player with the puck from the sideboards, but there's no one helping Ceci out here. This is a mistake the Habs are about to exploit. Jared Cowen knows what's up and adopts the Phillips point.
Now it's a full-on panic, and Cowen is forced to abandon the man on the far side of the ice to try to take away the shot from Galchenyuk. Notice David Legwand is straight legged, and has been since the blueline. If the Senators have any hope of breaking up this play, he needs to close down the pass to Gallagher with a few hard strides right now:
As you can see in the last frame, Legwand doesn't quite get there. Lehner comes across the net but Gallagher slides it under him to give the Habs a 2-1 lead. Ottawa's best chance for the rest of the second period comes on a Jean-Gabriel Pageau breakaway on which Price makes a great save. Nonetheless, there's hope heading into the third as Montreal takes a penalty late.
Unfortunately the Sens couldn't score on their first chance, and wouldn't generate much on a second opportunity only minutes later. When Alex Chiasson missed a white open night midway through the third, it just started to seem like it wasn't going to be Ottawa's night. An Eric Gryba hooking penalty followed very shortly thereafter by a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty in which Clarke MacArthur and Mike Hoffman got their signals crossed meant the Senators spent the last part of the third period shorthanded. A curiously uncovered Tomas Plekanec walked out from the side of the net on the power play and unimpeded tucked the puck past Lehner to make it 3-1 with just over three minutes to go, essentially ending the game. A Galchenyuk goal 45 seconds later was just more salt in the wound.
All in all, the Sens played the Habs about even but couldn't beat Price and did look a bit tired from playing their second game in two nights. It wasn't the worst loss, but they didn't deserve to win either. It was just sort of bleh.
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
He's been the beneficiary of some good luck of late, but you can make a case Mike Hoffman's been the team's best forward so far this year. Though I'm sure some will kill him for his part in the Too Many Men on the Ice penalty late in the game, that struck me as more bad luck than anything else. He was a wizard with the puck all night in the offensive end and the Senators looked dangerous every time he was on the ice.
Sens Hero: Erik Condra
Condra got the only goal while shorthanded and was his usual possession driving self at even strength
Sens Zero: Robin Lehner
The first goal was a stinker and stopping only 25/29 shots won't win too many games. The Senators didn't generate enough offense to win this game regardless of Lehner's play, but he didn't help the cause tonight.
Sens Killer: Carey Price
After Erik Condra victimized Price on a what was frankly a pretty terrible goal, Carey Price was a big part of the reason the Senators weren't able to walk out of Montreal with two points. He made a few key saves en route to stopping 24 out of 25 sent his way.