It was an interesting lead-up to an Ottawa Senators game. The team was third in the Atlantic, with games in hand on all but one of the five teams chasing them. And yet, people were highly upset about a team that allowed far too many shots and was depending on its goaltending to win. The complaints were amplified by the scratchings of stats darlings Patrick Wiercioch and Shane Prince for Chris Wideman and Matt Puempel respectively. Both unscratched players probably deserved to be in the lineup, but not for the guys they took out. To compound things, Bob McKenzie told TSN 1200 that Ottawa was willing to deal a defenceman who wasn't Erik Karlsson for a top-six forward, as if that would somehow shore up the shots allowed. People suddenly had visions of Wiercioch being traded for Bryan Bickell.
It led to an interesting dynamic entering the game. Most fans wanted the Sens to win, obviously, but some people were hoping they wouldn't so management would maybe realize that playing Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki in the same game was a bigger problem than Wiercioch's struggles.
After a touching anthem by the military wives' choir, the teams settled into the first period. Or rather, the Canucks settled in, since the Sens could only complete tape-to-tape passes to opposing players. A failed zone entry led to the first goal of the game. The Cancuks were able to to turn the puck around quickly and come back with speed. Still, Mark Borowiecki kept Radim Vrbata to the outside. He took a weak-angle shot that hit Wideman's skate and beat Andrew Hammond. The scorers would credit Sven Baertschi with the tip, though I still fail to see how he touched the puck.
Ottawa's fourth line would draw the first penalty of the game, as Curtis Lazar got tripped up. The powerplay went to work with some great passing, eventually letting Bobby Ryan rip one home. Don't look now, but Ottawa's powerplay has somehow scored a goal in three straight games. The goal also made it very clear to me that I was cheering for the Sens to win with the outburst of emotion I had after the goal.
As the period wound down, Zack Smith would do his best Tomas Plekanec impression by grabbing his mouth after getting hit in the glove by a stick. Next time he may want to hide a blood packet in his jersey to see if he can get the extra two. Anyway, Ottawa failed to score on the powerplay which most Sens fans probably felt good about.
The period would end tied in goals (1-1) and shots on goal (7-7). Corsi was 17-15 for Ottawa, but Fenwick was 11-10 for Vancouver, which again suggested a pretty evenly-matched game. However, it was highly skewed by the two powerplays, since Ottawa only had 40% of shot attempts and 27% of unblocked shot attempts at even strength. Still, powerplays are part of the game, and it was nice to see Ottawa making the most of theirs. And as reader Gatineau Greg pointed out, the Sens not having a two-goal lead let everyone breathe a little easier.
The second period started much more traditionally, with Vancouver getting six shots and drawing a powerplay before the period was two minutes old. On the penalty kill, the Sens actually managed to get more shots than the Canucks. Kyle Turris would get Ottawa another powerplay by stealing the puck from Dan Hamhuis and forcing him into a hook to prevent a great scoring chance. To keep things fair, the Sens would let the Canucks outshoot them on that powerplay. Ottawa wouldn't get any shots on the PP, and it would actually take until 8:50 into the period for Ottawa to register their first non-shorthanded shot on goal. It was all beginning to look a little too familiar to Sens fans used to watching their team get hopelessly outshot.
After an icing faceoff, Mark Stone would pick off a Vancouver pass at the blue line and race out. All he could was shoot it in wide, but Turris collected the puck in the corner and made another argument in favour of calling him a top-line centre by firing a gorgeous cross-ice pass to an open Karlsson. No way EK could miss on that kind of play. I found it a little ridiculous that he could be left that open, considering teams make their game plans around Erik Karlsson. I guess it's a little bit like wondering how Alex Ovechkin still gets left open enough to score 50 goals a season.
That would mostly do it for the period. Late in the period, Karlsson would pick up some speed and deke through four players, though the shot he generated wasn't particularly difficult for Ryan Miller. Still, it was a confident play from the team's best player, and Mark Stone loved it.
Things weren't as equal at the end of the second. Ottawa was up 2-1 in goals, and Vancouver was up 26-15 in shots on goal. After that second, it was looking like Ottawa was about to get shelled in the third.
The third period actually started far better than expected. The Sens didn't sit back, and took the play to the Canucks for the most part. Bobby Ryan even tried to pull a zone entry via a 360. By the first commercial break, Ottawa was outshooting the Canucks 3-1. Unfortunately, that break came because Marc Methot took an unlucky tripping penalty.
The team killed off the penalty with a little help from the post after a ridiculous sequence of passing by the Sedins. I think there were three passes in a quarter-second there before Daniel rang it off the post. The Sens would end the PK as they do with Turris getting a nice chance in close off yet another turnover generated by Stone. A little later, we got to see one of my favourite parts of a hockey game: when the ref picks up a dropped stick and looks like he's thinking about joining the play.
With four minutes left, Henrik Sedin would swing at a puck at Mike Hoffman's throat which sent Ottawa to yet another PP. The PP didn't look great, but with a handful of seconds left, Chris Wideman threw a floater on net that Miller couldn't glove. The puck may have deflected off Derek Dorsett, which is the only excusable reason Miller could have missed the puck. Wideman's second goal in as many games gave the Sens a huge two-goal cushion with only two minutes remaining.
Vancouver would gain the Sens' zone and pull their goalie, and the pressure led to Erik Karlsson taking a puck-over-glass delay of game penalty. I still think it's the dumbest penalty in hockey, but it's not something you can complain about in-game. Vancouver actually beat Hammond off the ensuing draw, but Mark Borowiecki swept the puck out of the crease behind Hammond. Just as it looked like Ottawa was going to hold on for the win, Alex Edler got way too much space and beat Hammond with a shot short-side. It's one Hammond would want back, but protecting a lead with 30 seconds left, there's no way anyone should be left that wide-open that close to the net.
The Canucks called their timeout then poured on the pressure, registering another shot, but Ottawa would hold on for 23.9 seconds to win their first of a five-game homestand. It wasn't pretty in parts of the second, but Ottawa actually played well in the third and it let them hold on to a lead for the first time in what feels like a decade. Final score: 3-2 for the good guys.
Sens Hero: Kyle Turris
Turricane was dynamite tonight. He was all over the ice, forcing turnovers and creating scoring chances. I'd say he was pretty unlucky to end up with only one point on the night. Also, only the top line and the top d-pair ended up above 50% Corsi at even strength, and I think Turris had a lot to do with his line's stats.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
Yes, he had a couple awful giveaways. Still, he had a dominant night, setting up lots of plays, and demonstrating his explosive skating the most I've seen him use it all season. With EK65, you know that you get some risk with his high reward, and tonight the reward was more than worth it.
Sens Hero: Andrew Hammond
Yes, that last goal was pretty weak. Yes, he got lucky that he didn't let in two more powerplay goals. Still, if it wasn't for Hammond, Ottawa is down two or three by the middle of the second. He put the team in a position to win, even if he nearly blew it at the end. I don't think the mistake would stand out as much if it didn't come with 20 seconds left.
Weird Stat: Bobby Ryan's time on ice
Ryan finished with only 8:33 at even strength, the lowest on the team. He did play 4:04 on the PP, but that still put him just barely above Chris Wideman and Matt Puempel for total time on ice. A little weird that a guy who seemed to be playing with confidence and who scored a goal (and who has the team's highest cap hit) didn't get a lot of chance to play.