This one was always going to be hard. Tampa Bay is a very good team, you could even make the case they are the favourites in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Ottawa is at best a fringe playoff team. Add to these facts that Ottawa was playing on the second night of a back-to-back against a fully rested Lightning squad and the odds weren't looking so good. Though things started out well, Kyle Turris potted a beauty of a goal before the game was a minute old, the game progressively slipped away from the Senators. A lack of discipline (or shoddy refereeing, depending on your viewpoint) played a part in Sens' inability to generate much offense after the Turris goal, but the simple truth is that the team only generated 11 shots at 5v5, and barely got a sniff in the third period when they needed to make a big push. By the end of the game, it just sort of seemed like the team was running on fumes. So no, it wasn't a surprise that the better, more rested team won but it still would have been nice to see a better effort put forth from the Senators on this night.
As aforementioned, the game started off very well indeed with Kyle Turris burying a snapshot past Ben Bishop off a delightful feed from Clarke MacArthur. Among his many attributes, one of the things MacArthur does best is always, always, always take a peek for a pass before he touches it. It's hard to see because the camera is so zoomed out, but you can make out Mac doing a shoulder check right as he heads behind the net to grab the puck.
The early flurry was a sign of things to come for the Turris-MacArthur-Stone line who were one of the few bright spots on the evening. Tampa Bay had the better of the play in the rest of period, and benefited from three power play opportunities, but solid goaltending from Robin Lehner kept Steven Stamkos and his cohorts at bay. Ottawa was slightly out-played, but at this point it looked like they might have a chance to sqeak one out.
The second period did not start well; Tampa Bay hemmed the Senators in for extended periods and racked up a startling number of shots. When Victor Hedman tied the game with a laser beam after a scramble in front of the Ottawa net, it felt like the Sens had been holding on for dear life. Fortunately, Ottawa was able to generate some offensive chances through strong neutral zone play by the Zibanejad line and draw a hooking penalty. When the Turris line came on the ice as the second power play unit, they moved the puck around crisply before Turris finally found Mark Stone in the slot for a quick shot past Bishop. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there: Cody Ceci took a hooking penalty and the Lightning scored after some rapid-fire puck movement. Seconds before, Eric Gryba had a chance to clear but was unable to. Though he's been steady for the most part this year, Gryba struggled badly against the speedy Lightning forwards. Less than a minute later, Steven Stamkos did this:
And suddenly Ottawa was trailing with less than five minutes left in the second.
The third period wasn't much to write home about from a Senators perspective: Tyler Johnson scored off of a beauty of a pass from Nikita Kucherov just as an elbowing penalty to Chris Phillips was expiring, and it took almost ten minutes for Ottawa to register its first shot of the period. At the end of the game there was more undisciplined play first by Mike Hoffman, and then by Erik Karlsson, but at that point the outcome seemed to be clearly decided. It was a dispiriting ending to a game that had begun in such promising fashion.
Sens Hero: Kyle Turris
The Turris line was good tonight, and not just for the two goals they scored; Stone, Turris and MacArthur were the only three Ottawa players with a positive Corsi rating for the game.
Sens Zero: Eric Gryba
Gryba plays a type of game that means he rarely wears the goat horns: get the puck, make a quick pass, play a safe game. Tonight, things did not go well for Gryba as he was victimized time and again by the speed of the Tampa Bay forecheck. On top of (or perhaps because of) the numerous give-aways, the Sens were out shot 9-0 while he was on thte ice. Just not a great performance at all.
Sens Killer: Tyler Johnson
Steven Stamkos was menacing as always, and he did pot that highlight reel goal, but for my money Tyler Johnson was the best player on the ice tonight. He can absolutely fly and he used his speed to exploit the plodding Ottawa defense corps on multiple occasions. His two goals were virtual gimmes, but he also created plenty of other chances that the Lightning didn't score on.