Jason Spezza Returns Night started with another notable absence: no Lyndon Slewidge. Normally, this is cause for alarm, but not tonight. While Lyndon is my favourite, his replacement tonight not only sang a decent anthem, but she had centurion helmet hair. No seriously:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>CENTURION HELMET YESSS RT <a href="https://twitter.com/SensUnofficial">@SensUnofficial</a>: Yikes.. <a href="http://t.co/A9l3wxnzXg">pic.twitter.com/A9l3wxnzXg</a></p>— Silver Seven (@silversevensens) <a href="https://twitter.com/silversevensens/status/560959703145275392">January 30, 2015</a></blockquote>
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The Sens got off to a terrible start, spotting Dallas a three-goal lead. In a 4:30 minute span in the middle of the period, Dallas got goals from Captain Jamie Benn on the powerplay with a nice move to beat Robin Lehner, Colton Sceviour a minute later, and Ales Hemsky with a slapshot on the powerplay. Things looked bad and the TSN commentators were focusing the blame on Lehner, despite incredibly bad and sluggish defensive zone play from the Senators.
Normally a 3-0 deficit, even in the first period, is enough to bury a team. But this is Dallas and they suck in their own end too! Still, it wasn't until the last five minutes of the first that the Sens got rolling.
It was Bobby Ryan who made things happen. Ryan isn't a possession driver and that's unlikely to change. However, he does a lot of little things, especially this season, which often go unnoticed but make a difference. Mika Zibanejad got the Sens on the board with a great individual effort, but Bobby Ryan's hard net drive helped make it happen. It was the kind of play people want to see from Alex Chiasson or Chris Neil on the powerplay but it was Bobby making it happen. A few minutes later with the Sens on the powerplay, Ryan struck again, this time with his first goal in seven games. A Cody Ceci blast from the point was initially stopped by Kari Lehtonen but trickled behind him. Ryan pounced on the puck in the blue paint, netting his 13th goal of the season. With seconds left on the clock, Clarke MacArthur stole a puck at his own blueline and broke into the Dallas zone, but was denied by Lehtonen just as the buzzer went. The period ended with the Sens back in the game, but the score 3-2 in favour of Dallas. Shots 12-8 for Dallas.
Things were more even to start the second, but Dallas outplayed the Sens in the period as a whole. Both teams had a penalty midway through the period but were unable to add to their totals. The best chance came for a streaking Milan Michalek on the penalty kill, but Lehtonen turned aside his breakaway effort. Jason Spezza also had a great opportunity to score in his return but was robbed by a nice save from Lehner. A late Ottawa powerplay, featuring the new Zibanejad-Ryan-MacArthur line, looked dangerous but was unable to breakthrough. A late flurry from Dallas led to two great stops by Lehner on former Senator (what is it with Dallas?) Patrick Eaves. I wouldn't call it a bounce back period from Lehner, as I don't think he was at fault in the first, but it was an good performance from the goalie. The period ended with the same score line: 3-2 in Dallas' favour. Shots 16-8 in the frame in favour of Dallas.
The Sens got rolling early in the third. Alex Chiasson, the almost-healthy scratch, scored his first goal of the calendar year, tipping-in a Turris shot to tie things up. Eaves had an excellent chance to retake the lead for Dallas, but rang a shot off the post. The Zibanejad line continued to look dangerous and almost gave the Sens the lead, if not for Eaves snatching the puck off the goal line. Midway through the period the Stars regained the lead on a John Klingberg goal. Mike Hoffman made a great defensive zone steal and charged up the ice with the puck. Unfortunately, Hoffman lost the puck and fell down facing two Stars. Klingberg picked up the puck and broke into the Ottawa, catching the Ottawa defense (Chris Phillips, Eric Gryba) flatfooted and beat Lehner with a shot perfectly placed under the crossbar. The Zibanejad line looked the most likely to score but didn't. A late penalty to Tyler Seguin allowed the Sens to pull Lehner for the 6-on-4 advantage. Unfortunately, being on the PK allowed Trevor Daley to go for the empty net without fear of icing the puck and he netted Dallas' fifth of the evening. Jamie Benn added a second shorthanded empty net goal for Dallas and the Stars came out on top, 6-3. Dallas deserved the victory because, with the exception of the Zibanejad line, they outplayed the Sens. Shots 13-12 in favour of Dallas in the third period, 41-28 on the night.
Sens Heroes: The Zibanejad line
All three players got on the score sheet and got Ottawa back into the game. Ryan had a goal and an assist and MacArthur looked much better than he has the last several games. Ryan in particular looked great and had a couple of chances, included a great tip in the third, to add to his goal total, but was denied.
Sens Hero: Robin Lehner
A lot of fans will look at the score and blame Lehner, but he wasn't at fault tonight. Many will look at the fact that he let in three goals in the first and concluded that he was to blame, but two were powerplay goals and the team as a whole looked sluggish from the ASG break and porous in their own zone. Yes, you probably want a stop on the fourth goal, especially short side, but it was a well-placed shot by Klingberg, and the culmination of a series of mistakes by his teammates. What did Lehner do well? He locked in and keep his team in a game they had no business being in, particularly in the second period when he stopped all 16 shots he faced. Was he perfect? No. He faced 39 shots and only had an 89.7 save percentage, but this was much better than his last outing and gives him something to build some confidence on.
Sens Killer: Trevor Daley
Daley had three points on the night: two assists and a goal. His goal, the first empty net strike for Dallas, essentially ended things for the Senators.
Sens Killer: John Klingberg
On a night when some of Dallas' big guns like Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza were largely contained, Ottawa was burned by Klingberg. He had an assist on Dallas' opening goal and the game winner.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick:
Highlights via NHL.com: