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Senators Lose Chris Neil's 900th Game to the Devils

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A recap of Thursday's game between the Devils and Senators

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

After nearly a week off, the Senators took on the Devils on the occasion of Chris Neil's 900th career game. It had also been one year since the attack on Parliament and the murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. The first Sens game after that event last year was against New Jersey, so this seemed fitting.

Now in this game, I found myself with a bunch of short thoughts, so I decided to put them all down in bullet point form to make a recap.

1st period

  • From the normal camera view, the Sens' third jersey looks a lot like the Devils' away jersey.
  • Apparently on the subject of Neil's 900th game, Dave Cameron said that for a player like Neil it was more like 1200 games. I still can't decide if that's a compliment.
  • A couple of bad misses by Chris Wideman early. I can't tell if he was nervous or what, but it wasn't good.
  • Also, very crafty of Wideman to wear #45 so I sometimes blame his bad plays on Patrick Wiercioch.
  • First penalty of the game to Erik Karlsson, an obvious trip
  • Zack Smith flips the puck over the glass for more than a minute of 5-on-3. Is it just me, or have the Sens given up a lengthy 5-on-3 in every game this season?
  • Andrew Hammond looked... like a guy not completely confident in his ability to move. On the 5-on-3, his save on Kyle Palmieri was sent directly to Travis Zajac on the open side. And sure, Zajac was unmarked, but Hammond seemed to have absolutely no push getting over the make the save. Maybe he doesn't trust his groin fully yet.
  • Stone with a great play to race up with the puck and force a pass through two Devils to Turris, who nailed the crossbar. Too bad - a shortie would've been nice.
  • I knew it was a long PK because Mika Zibanejad was out there. Just as I thought that, he intercepted a pass and raced in on a breakaway to tie it with a backhand. I was right -- a shortie was nice. (Side note: did anyone notice that Zibanejad had basically no accent in his first period interview? I don't remember that from last year.)
  • Just as you thought the Sens had killed the powerplay, Jordin Tootoo got a goal with one second left. One! To me, the play seemed to come out of nowhere.
  • Can we call Tootoo's celebration the Chicken Wing?
  • The Sens' powerplay looked pretty good. The team seems to be excellent in the attacking zone, but aren't great at getting into the attacking zone.
  • Both teams had several awful giveaways in their own zone.
  • The Sens outshot their opponents, 14-11! Then I remembered the opponent was the Devils and stopped being excited.

2nd period

  • I'm not sure if I like this bullet point thing or not. But at this point, I'm committed.
  • I completely forgot Borowiecki and Karlsson were a pairing. Maybe all the penalties in the first period kept them apart? Or maybe Borocop has been steadier than expected.
  • Karlsson sets up Curtis Lazar with a nice pass, and Lazar pulls a sweet forehand-backhand deke that forces Cory Schneider into a great save and Lee Stempniak into a hooking penalty. Lazar has confidence. No way he would've tried that move last year.
  • At the beginning of the game, they said Lazar played 19:30 last game, easily the highest of his NHL career.
  • And guess what? Lazar's out there on the second powerplay unit. Guess I'm not the only one noticing his newfound confidence.
  • Turris and Hammond each lose their sticks, and the resulting scramble (TM Dean Brown) is reminiscent of last year -- Hammond has no business keeping the puck out, but somehow he does.
  • Also, a great moment when Turris doesn't have a stick, and somehow makes a glove save on the point shot
  • Some great work by the fourth line gets the game tied up. Neil with the effective forecheck, Shane Prince gets a sweet interception, and Zack Smith puts home the rebound. Each of them gets their first point of the year.
  • It was Smith's first point in 27 games, which came November 24 last year. It was Neil's first point in 25 games, which came November 28 last year. It was Shane Prince's second career NHL point, giving him the highest career points-per-game average on that line.
  • Did you see Jared Cowen make two dekes before passing the puck out of the zone? What planet are we on?
  • Another great play by Prince sets up Neil for a near-goal
  • Nice to see Neil getting an off-setting penalty. He still has yet to put the team shorthanded this year.
  • Wideman's patience before a slapshot was fantastic. That shows a guy with a lot more confidence than the guy on his second shift of the first period.
  • What a dumb play by Stephen Gionta. Sure it could've been a penalty on Mark Borowiecki, but you can't stick the blade of your stick into a player's upper thigh right in front of the ref. Ever.
  • Stefan Matteau was going to serve the penalty, then didn't stay since there was only 1:42 left in the period, which reminded me that you don't have to put someone in the box for a five minute major (thanks Down Goes Brown!)
  • I was kind of excited to see the five minute powerplay. The Sens have four defencemen (Karlsson, Wiercioch, Cody Ceci, and Wideman) who could get powerplay time, and this would give all of them plus maybe a couple new forwards a chance on the PP

3rd period

  • Just as it was looking like another fruitless powerplay, Mike Hoffman salvaged it by scoring on another shot with a ridiculous release. He easily has the most beautiful release on the team
  • A pretty weak call on Turris, but you gotta expect a make-up call after a five-minute major
  • A confident play by Cowen gets the Sens into the zone, and Shane Prince makes a great pass to an open Chris Neil. For some reason Schneider was cheating toward Cowen, who is definitely not the natural goal-scorer that Neil is, so naturally Neil buries it
  • Prince still has the best career point-per-game average of his linemates
  • Some impressive cycling by 2-45-10-15-25. I'm surprised by at least three of those players that they could get a cycle going
  • Why is everyone making a big deal about Neil getting a Gordie Howe hat-trick in his 900th game? A two-point game is already a big deal for the guy. Wouldn't a third be better than a fight?
  • Ah, look. There's Neil's fight. How many times are people going to bring this up?
  • I was waiting for the arm raise. Neil just had that look in his eyes. He made us wait a couple seconds, but it happened.
  • Another sloppy rebound from Hammond gives New Jersey the goal to come within one. He hasn't looked particularly comfortable this game.
  • This 4-3 scoreline means that if nothing changes, Neil will have the game-winner. Doubt anyone picked that in the prediction pool.
  • Of course, the scoreline couldn't hold up. An early goalie pull by John Hynes gave the Devils a lot of zone time, and they finally tied it up on a rebound.
  • The use of Cowen-Borwiecki here is symptomatic of the NHL's poor understanding of defence. The fact that they play a lot in the defensive zone doesn't make them good defensive players. I'd take my chances with Erik Karlsson out there at the end since the other team probably wouldn't be getting much of the puck.
  • Shouldn't have gone to OT. Plain and simple

Overtime

  • 3-on-3 is a lot of back and forth. A lot. I couldn't keep my thoughts straight
  • Jean-Gabriel Pageau almost got a shorthanded breakaway in OT, except Cowen couldn't keep the puck low enough to pass it up to him
  • That did it for OT. Ottawa really should've won this game in regulation.

Shootout

  • Bobby Ryan leads it off with a decent goal. Nice to see he still can show up for the shootout.
  • Hammond sticks with Adam Henrique just enough to keep the puck out
  • A great move by Turris, but Schneider's stick gets on the puck and keeps it out. Somehow.
  • Josefson scores, again I'm not sure how. Just tucked it in the post
  • Zibanejad kind of worked himself in to a hole. It was the same move he pulled on the his shorthanded goal
  • Cammalleri came in, and Hammond got the pad on it. No lies, I'm very nervous watching Hammond in the shootout
  • Stone almost picked his spot, but Schneider just got a save on it
  • Lee Stempniak ended it. It had to happen at some point. Final score: Devils 5, Sens 4. Really should've been Ottawa's game.

Sens Hero: Chris Neil

Could it be anybody else? A goal, an assist, a fight. His 900th game showed pretty much all the things we love about Neil.

Honourable Mention: Shane Prince and Zack Smith

That fourth line was buzzing, with Prince getting a two points, and all three getting significant ice time. They also all finished above 50% in 5v5 Corsi, meaning they were actually driving the play while they were out there.

Honourable Mention: Curtis Lazar

The confidence on this guy is amazing. He really could've had a couple points tonight, and also saw significant PP time. Would you believe his assist tonight was his first point besides his empty-net goal in Game 1?

Honourable Mention: Jared Cowen and Chris Wideman

These guys came to play, and finished with a huge chunk of possession. Wideman seemed to settle into his role as offensive defenceman, and Cowen even had a couple smart plays with the puck.

Dishonourable Mention: Andrew Hammond

I hate to put this all on this guy (and I don't), but three goals came from sloppy rebounds. The team needs him to be better if they're going to win with him.

Sens Zero: Dave Cameron

You don't try to protect a lead with two minutes of Cowen and Borowiecki. You don't leave Mike Hoffman out of you shootout lineup, especially in a game where he's already scored. I think this game was easily winnable, and then the coach let it get away. Maybe I'm a little bitter.

Game Flow:

Shot Chart:

Highlights: