Ah, afternoon games. The bane of every Ottawa Senators fan's existence. Shockingly, this was the first one of the year for the Sens.
The game started with a moment of silence for the attacks in Paris, followed by the French National Anthem. It was just over a year ago that Ottawa was shocked by a shooter downtown and many sports teams around the world responded by playing O Canada. The death toll in Paris was much higher, but the idea of being shocked by violence was relevant for many Ottawa residents, and it was nice to see the team return the regards.
Very early in the first period, Craig Anderson let out a juicy rebound to a wide-open J.T. Miller on the far post. With a gaping net, Miller somehow put it off the outside of the far post, and the Sens dodged an early bullet. Just after that, Milan Michalek took a dumb holding penalty in the offensive zone. Some bad PK action by the Sens let Chris Kreider tip a Kevin Hayes shot past Anderson. Hot take: Cody Ceci is not a good net-front defenceman on the penalty kill. That's often Mark Borowiecki's role, and he can give Kreider a tough time. Ceci looked like he was always going to be outmuscled in front there.
Ottawa would get it right back with their token powerplay goal. Dave Cameron turned to his fourth line after the Rangers' goal, and they helped him out. Curtis Lazar made a nice pass to Chris Neil who was in the perfect spot, forcing Jesper Fast into a hooking penalty. I have to admit, if Lazar can mesh with Neil and Zack Smith, that can only mean good things for this team. On the ensuing powerplay, the Rangers skated in shorthanded, but Ryan McDonagh fell in the offensive zone, setting up a five-on-two the other way. A quick tic-tac-tic-toe passing play between Mika Zibanjead (tic) and Bobby Ryan (tac) set up Erik Karlsson (toe) for his third goal in as many games. It was a gorgeous goal, and extended Ottawa's powerplay goal-scoring streak to four games.
That goal celebration is one for the ages. Basically, a back-checking Rick Nash takes out Karlsson right after the goal, and when Bobby Ryan turns to celebrate with him he trips over Karlsson. Lastly, Kyle Turris' forward momentum is enough to bring him down on top of the pile. Thankfully they could all laugh about it:
Erik "My Life is a Photoshoot" Karlsson pic.twitter.com/L8qv37Jg6z— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 14, 2015
The rest of the first period was a shooting gallery. Some bad defensive pinches by both teams led to some great chances. Kevin Klein allowed Mika Zibanejad to get two shots on a near-breakaway. An awful pinch by Karlsson set up a three-on-one that Anderson bailed his team out on. Borowiecki pinching set up a two-on-one with Chris Wideman as the lone defenceman back, but the pass was into Nash's skates and he couldn't corral it to put it into a wide-open cage.
There were also a lot of good chances. In addition to the aforementioned ones, Kreider also managed to hit the post shortly after the Sens' tying goal. And late in the first, Mark Stone was allowed to walk straight up the middle and rip a wrist shot off the crossbar that bounced high and back out of the zone.
Gord Miller described the period as basketball-esque, with teams essentially exchanging possession with scoring chances. The kind of period that coaches hate and most fans love. It was clear that New York has been playing the Sens' strategy of being poor defensively but getting bailed out by their goalie, only the Rangers have a better goalie.
The second period would start strongly for the Sens, with them holding the zone for multiple shifts. Unfortunately, it couldn't turn into any kind of goal. A little while into the period, Zack Smith and Dan Girardi got into a shoving match behind the net that ended with Smith pushing Girardi into Henrik Lundqvist. It was Ottawa's second offensive-zone penalty of the game.
Thankfully, Ottawa would kill the penalty. Ray Ferraro turned soothsayer by pointing out Karlsson's impressive defensive work by outmuscling the much bigger Chris Kreider on the PK, and on Karlsson's ensuing shift he drew a penalty by outworking the much bigger Jarret Stoll. Ottawa's powerplay went back to being absolutely terrible, failing to get any sort of sustained zone pressure. I don't get this team. They have a PP goal in four games in a row, and yet it looks awful 90% of the time. Part of me thinks they've started paying off other teams' PK squads to let in a goal so that local media will stop asking what's wrong with the powerplay.
Ferraro would continue his Nostradamian period by pointing out Zack Smith trying to pry his stick free and accidentally on purpose slashing Girardi when it came free. He was lucky to not get called for a penalty there. On the ensuing shift, Z Smith would hit Derek Stepan in the head for no reason, drawing a fight with Kreider. Very lucky for Smith, Kreider would get the instigator, negating Smith's dumb penalty. Either way, I highly doubt Smith is back in the lineup next game, even if he doesn't get suspended.
As for the Rangers, Stepan would leave the bench, with a possible concussion the likely reason. I can't help but think that if Stepan had dropped immediately, it would've been a five-minute major for Smith. Injuries increase the magnitude of penalties. So that was another bullet dodged for him. (For suspension purposes, Stepan returned to the Rags' bench to start the third.)
Alain Vigneault was complaining to the referees that he would be down Kreider for 17 minutes while Stepan was also off for an injury. As much as I can understand his frustration, maybe it would be better to tell one of your top forwards not to fight. Even if you don't like the instigator penalty (and I don't), during a game isn't the place to complain about it. The rules are set before the game starts, and Kreider decided that fighting Z Smith was more important than his team having use of his services in the third period.
Late in the period, Stoll would take his second penalty against Karlsson of the period. Luckily for the Rangers, Ottawa was once again more Hyde than Jekyll, failing to do anything well. A late flurry of chances for Mats Zuccarello were stymied by Anderson, and a scoreless second period would keep the score tied.
If the second was boring, the third started boringer. I found almost nothing to write about in the first eight minutes of the period. Both teams took some shots from long distances. Neither team looked like it was that interested in winning the game.
A little over halfway through the second, the Sens had a scare when Kyle Turris tried to jump over and instead flipped over Zuccarello - I'd call it a hip-check, but I think it was the height difference that made it happen rather than any intent on Zucc's part. Turris headed straight down the tunnel, and Sens fans everywhere held their breath. Losing arguably the team's brightest spot to start the year didn't bode well. Turris would return after missing just one shift, but it was clear he was in pain. Regulation would run out of time, sending the Sens to their eighth overtime period of the season.
Overtime would solve nothing, though not for want of trying. Mike Hoffman would drill the post twice, Rick Nash would get a post of his own, Erik Karlsson would get in alone on Lundvist but too tight to do anything, and Mika Zibanejad would rip a one-timer just wide.
In the shootout, Bobby Ryan scored again to make him 5/6 on the year. That gives him one fewer shootout goals than normal play goals on the season. Anderson would keep the pad down to deny Rick Nash, but then let in the next two shots: high-glove by Mats Zuccarello, and high-blocker by Dan Boyle (!!). Kyle Turris would barely get stopped by Lundqvist (the puck trickled five-hole, but I'm not sure it had enough momentum to make it across the line even if Lundqvist didn't sweep it away), and Zibanejad was barely stopped on an attempt to go backhand shelf. I'm not sure of the wisdom of putting a player with an injured arm in the shootout, but he did nearly score. Final score: Rangers 2, Senators 1 in a shootout.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
The captain had another great game today. To win, you need your best players to be your best players, and Karlsson is looking a lot more like what we expect. With his goal, he tied John Klingberg for first in the NHL in points among defencemen (and tied for sixth-overall).
Honourable Mention: Craig Anderson
It's a little harsh, but Anderson's play didn't inspire a lot of confidence in me today. He got bailed out by posts and bouncing passes a few times. Still, he stopped nearly everything that came his way, and you can't argue with a .971 save percentage. I don't care what the TSN crew thinks, I still don't think we have a goaltending controversy in Ottawa.
Honourable Mention: Mark Borowiecki-Chris Wideman
In terms of even-strength possession, this was Ottawa's best defensive duo on the day. The two have some familiarity from Binghamton which may help them. Plus Borocop is back on his normal side, which must be nice for him. As much as I hate to say Ottawa looked a lot better with Jared Cowen scratched...
Sens Zero: Zack Smith
Z Smith put himself ahead of the team today, putting the team shorthanded once, but trying to do it three times. If he gets suspended for hitting Stepan in the head, it'll save Cameron from having to sit him. There used to be a segment in recaps on S7S called "Z. Smith takes dumb penalties" and so far this year it looks like we may have to bring it back.
Sens Killer: Henrik Lundqvist
It looked to me like Hank robbed the Sens of several great goal-scoring chances. Hoffman on a wrap-around, Karlsson in tight in OT... the list could keep going.
Rangers Zero (aka the
Cory Clouston Alain Vigneault Fashion Review): Alain Vigneault's shirt/tie combination
Who wears a grey shirt with a tie of THE SAME SHADE OF GREY? I didn't even realize he was wearing a tie until the second period. It's completely fair if you can only afford one shirt and tie, but on an NHL coach's salary there are no excuses.
Roller Coaster Flow: