I don't know about you, but I have a very hard time getting worked up for a game against the Hurricanes. They're not good, they don't have much star power, they have no one I like to hate, and they have no playoff history with the Senators. The first period delivered on exactly what I was expecting: a yawn-inducing period featuring five shots for each team. It was a clear battle between some not very good teams.
To start the period, I thought Ottawa looked clearly like the better team, mostly because Carolina looked terrible. Unfortunately, Ottawa took the first two penalties of the period, but the Canes couldn't put much together. Erik Condra probably had the best scoring chance on those powerplays, when he tried to pick up a lobbed breakaway pass, but Andrej Sekera continued his audition for joining a better team with some solid defensive play. Condra was arguing for a penalty shot, but I don't know why, because we all know how a Condra penalty shot would end. Ottawa got a great chance when Jean-Gabriel Pageau threw the puck to an uncovered Erik Karlsson, who walked in but couldn't score. It did draw Carolina's first penalty of the game, but Ottawa's powerplay looked putrid. Carolina got as much offensive zone pressure, and with 20 seconds left, Mark Stone hit Tim Gleason in the throat with his stick. For some reason, David Legwand got assigned the penalty. After 4-on-4 ended, Curtis Lazar should've had his second of the year. On a shorthanded 2-on-1, Milan Michalek found him with a great pass. One deke put Lazar around Anton Khudobin, but then he missed the tap in.
Just when you thought the period would end without anything noticeable, Brad Malone (yeah, I've never heard of him either) scored after some lax defensive play allowed Carolina to maintain possession in the zone. Not only was the period boring as watching bitumen flow, but the Sens were carrying a deficit into the intermission.
The second period started out well again for the Sens. Bobby Ryan put a puck on net from a sharp angle. Mika Zibanejad picked up the rebound, skated through the crease, but did his best impression of first-period-Lazar by missing the tap-in. Ottawa got things knotted up when Cody Ceci blasted home a rebound off a Condra shot. Khudobin probably wishes the rebound hadn't been so juicy, but he also probably wishes there'd been some kind of defensive coverage on Ceci. Karlsson had an ever better chance to score just afterward when he received a great cross-ice feed, but Khudobin made a spectacular diving save off his wrist that sent the puck pretty much straight up.
Ottawa got a great chance to take the lead when Eric Staal decided it was worth batting the puck out of the air right in front of Jared Cowen's face. He missed, instead drawing blood in Cowen's mouth, sending Ottawa to a four-minute powerplay. It looked pretty similar to their first period powerplay, including the part of taking their own penalty late. David Legwand attempt to imitate Staal, but missed Gleason on the first swing. Not deterred, he swung again, this time connecting with the face and getting his own minor penalty. It effectively negated the last 2:22 of the Sens' powerplay. Ottawa had two great chances to score, first with Pageau and then with Legwand (out of the box) turning long passes into breakaways. Khudobin continued to find the answers to the Sens' questions. After two periods, the shot totals were much more respectable, being 20-19 in favour of the Hurricanes.
The third period started almost exactly how Ottawa wanted it to. Mark Stone took advantage of a sloppy zone exit by the Hurricanes, intercepting a pass and potting an unassisted goal from the slot. I hadn't been much of a fan of Stone's game so far, but that definitely redeemed him. Carolina answered right back with a really unfortunate goal for Craig Anderson. Justin Faulk took a hard shot from the point that deflected off Patrick Wiercioch in front. Anderson had played the shot aggressively and was high in his crease. The puck bounced on its side, and changed course to roll its way back into the net. If ever there was a goal that wasn't a goalie's fault, that was one. Ottawa would have the brunt of the chances for the rest of the game, but the only other goal went to Carolina. Nathan Gerbe took a shot from the point, that may or may not have hit Pageau's stick. Either way, it buried itself top-corner behind Anderson. Ottawa would pour on the pressure, even pulling Anderson for most of the last two minutes, but couldn't beat Khudobin. It was a game Ottawa should've won, both from on paper and based on their play, but it didn't matter. The biggest bright side is it means the team probably won't consider itself a buyer at the trade deadline with a few more results like this. Final score: Hurricanes 3, Senators 2.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
Karlsson finished with six shots on goal, the majority of on-ice shot attempts, and was extremely unlucky to get no points. His speed was on display, he made several good moves to get around Canes' defenders, and was hard on the backcheck a bunch of the night too. The captain looked like the best Sens player tonight.
Honourable Mention: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Milan Michalek, Erik Condra
These were the other guys I noticed tonight. Pageau was speedy, Michalek had his second good game in a row, and Condra was making lots happen despite his lacklustre linemates.
Honourable Mention: Breakout passes
The Sens looked better at moving the puck out of their own end than most games in recent memory. I feel like that had more to do with the Canes' lack of talent, but even still, that's a glimmer of promise from a very disappointing game.
Sens Zero: The Eric Gryba - Patrick Wiercioch pairing
Neither of these guys looked terrible tonight in general. Wiercioch was a great option alongside Karlsson for exiting the zone. Gryba was a fixture on a PK that killed everything tonight. Together though, they looked pretty lost. They were on the ice for all three Hurricanes goals. It looked like they brought out each others' weaknesses, and it allowed the Hurricanes to take advantage. They put up a 47.62% Corsi together, and were both better than this when separated.
Sens Killer: Anton Khudobin
Ottawa had many, many quality chances tonight, and Khudobin was just good enough to bail out his team on multiple occasions. Without him, Ottawa would've cruised to victory.
Begrudging Benediction: If this team's gonna miss the playoffs anyway, why does it hurt so much to watch them lose?