The Ottawa Senators rolled into Music City on Tuesday night to face off against the Nashville Predators. Coming off a late-game collapse against Carolina over the weekend, the Sens needed to regroup. Craig Anderson got the start for Ottawa, while (no surprise) Pekka Rinne started in net for Nashville.
Fans got their wish in the opening moments of the game, when the infamous duo of Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki separated. Cowen was paired with Cody Ceci, while Patrick Wiercioch joined Borowiecki on the blue line.
Just four minutes into the game, James Neal took a tripping penalty, sending Ottawa to the power play. Much to the surprise of anyone who has been watching this team on the man advantage, the Sens were able to capitalize. After Erik Karlsson picked up the puck at the point, he walked the line and slid the puck to Bobby Ryan, who wired it towards the net. Milan Michalek would tip it past Rinne, putting the Sens up 1-0.
A little over a minute later, what looked like a goal from Jared Cowen turned out to be a deflection by Zack Smith. Just like that, the Sens were up 2-0 off a couple of unlikely goals. But Nashville would respond quickly with a goal from Colton Sissons, who tipped in a point shot from Ryan Ellis.
It looked like things were returning to normal for the Senators, when Jared Cowen took a kneeing penalty at the seven-minute mark of the period. Thanks to a decent penalty kill from the Sens, Nashville had very few chances to tie the game on the power play.
Immediately following that penalty, Cowen and Ceci drove an unlikely offensive rush along with the Sens third line. This line combination generated a number of scoring chances, and made it very difficult for Nashville to leave their own zone, surprising many viewers along the way.
With under four minutes to go in the first, Patrick Wiercioch took a holding penalty. On the penalty kill, Zack Smith intercepted a pass in his own zone, sending himself on a foot race with Mike Fisher all the way to the other end. He would beat Fisher and Pekka Rinne on the partial breakaway. Smith had his second goal of the game, and the Sens were up 3-1 heading into the second period.
As most Sens fans know, a two-goal lead doesn't really mean anything these days. And this game was no different. In the first six minutes of the second period, the Senators played very much like a scared team with a lead. They tried to be safe, and smart with the puck. But then they started to sit back, and Nashville made the most of it.
Patrick Wiercioch took a delay of game penalty around the 6:15 mark. About seven seconds later, James Neal sent a backhand pass to Shea Weber at the point. Weber made no mistake, and wired it past Anderson. That turned out to be point #400 for Weber, and the one that cut the lead in half. After that, things escalated quickly.
A whole minute and a half later, Roman Josi picked up the puck in the neutral zone, undressed Karlsson heading into the Senators zone and beat Anderson all alone in front of the net. Just like that, the game was tied... But I'm not done.
A minute after Josi's goal, Austin Watson tipped in a shot from Seth Jones at the point, putting Nashville up 4-3. The Sens' typical third-period collapse reared its ugly head earlier in this game. In under five minutes, they went from having a two-goal lead to being down by one goal.
It's hard to believe, but all was not lost for the Sens at this point. Under a minute after Watson's goal, Bobby Ryan deaked his way into the Nashville zone, dropped the puck back for Mika Zibanejad who passed it to Karlsson heading up the wing. Karlsson let his shot go immediately, beating Rinne and tying the game 4-4.
That goal was not only Karlsson's first goal of the season, but also Ottawa's first shot of the period. Did I mention it came at 9:32? (Just making sure.)
In the final five minutes of the second period, the Sens seemed to tighten up their game a little bit. They maintained possession in the Nashville zone, and played a much more controlled game than the one we saw in the first half. It would pay off.
Miikka Salomaki took a tripping penalty after taking Bobby Ryan down. On the power play, Curtis Lazar backhanded the rebound past Rinne and gave the Sens the lead once again. The Sens actually got out of the second period alive.
Then came the third period. Things started off quite calm compared to the second. Mike Hoffman found himself on a breakaway within the first two minutes. But for the second time tonight, he was unable to beat Pekka Rinne. That would be the highlight of this period for the Sens.
Mattias Ekholm tied things up a few seconds later with a point shot that easily found the net. Wiercioch fell behind on the play and had to chase his man in front of the net. He inadvertently created a screen on Anderson, who couldn't see the shot from Ekholm.
About halfway through the third, Colin Wilson thought he scored to give Nashville the lead. Luckily for Sens fans, he hit the post. Then seconds later, Barret Jackman chipped the puck past Anderson, putting the Predators ahead for real this time. But a one goal lead was apparently not enough, as Gabriel Bourque scored 90 seconds later to make it 7-5 for Nashville, which is how the game would end.
Fun fact: This game is officially the highest scoring game in the NHL this season. So there's that.
Sens Killer: Shots
After keeping things fairly close in the first period (getting 10 shots, while allowing 12), the Sens quickly reverted back to their old ways of allowing too many shots and not generating enough of their own. The team only managed to get three shots in the second period all together, with the first one not coming until over nine minutes into the period. The shot total for the night was 38 for Nashville and 26 for Ottawa. While this is only a shot differential of 12, going an entire period with just three shots is not how you win hockey games. Giving teams this many chances at once is exactly why the score ended up the way it did tonight.
Sens Zero: Patrick Wiercioch
Wiercioch is in no way to blame for this game, but I only have so much room in a recap. Simply put, this was definitely not his night. After taking back-to-back penalties in the first and second periods, one of which resulted in a power-play goal for the Predators, he screened his own goalie on the tying goal in the third. He struggled to break out of his own zone, and did his team no favours in front of the net. As mentioned, this game was the result of many breakdowns and failures from the team as a whole, but Wiercioch did not have a great game.
Honourable Mention: Zack Smith
Despite the result of tonight's game, Zack Smith deserves credit for a solid effort. After being a healthy scratch in Carolina, Smith came out with something to prove. He did that tonight, scoring two goals in the first period alone. Considering he had under 10 minutes of ice time, Smith did his part tonight, even though things didn't go his way.
Game Flow from Natural Stat Trick: