I have no clever lead in for a Hockey Night in Canada game between the Ottawa Senators and the Philadelphia Flyers. I don't know if it's just the fact that we're 20 games into the season, or the fact that Jared Cowen was back in the lineup, or something else, but I wasn't really up for the game.
The game didn't take long to get going. Alex Chiasson had an early hit on Scott Laughton that to me looked like Laughton put himself in a vulnerable position, but ended with Laughton going head-first into the boards. Sam Gagner stepped in to fight Chiasson, giving both players five for fighting and Gagner the extra two for instigating. The good news for Philly was the Ottawa never really got set up on the powerplay, with the best chance coming for Matt Read who got a pseudo-breakaway. Erik Karlsson was able to get enough pressure on him to make sure it was an easy shot for Craig Anderson to handle.
Steve Mason was also tested early, making a great save on a high-point wrist-shot by Mike Hoffman, and then scooping up a cross-crease feed from Mark Stone just before Curtis Lazar could touch it. Just after the first commercial break, Ottawa returned the instigator favour with Hoffman taking a tripping penalty on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who wasn't near the puck when it happened. The Flyers came into the game with the 27th-best PP in the league at 14.3%, but the Sens' PK was 26th at 75.8%. Something had to give. In the end, Ottawa's penalty killers came out on top, in no small part thanks to some big saves by Anderson. As the penalty expired, Hoffman and Karlsson would get some good offensive zone chances, but neither one could solve Mason. It was looking like this game could involve poor defence but high-level goaltending.
Not long after, Chris Wideman would be made to take a penalty by the Flyers' cycle. He ended up against Jakub Voracek against the boards, a player who is "officially" four inches taller and 34 lbs heavier, and took a hooking penalty in trying to control him. Luckily for Wideman, the Sens' PK was up to that task too. And shortly afterward, the refs continued keeping the game even by calling Read for holding against Marc Methot on what looked like a pretty soft call to me. It was a hold, but Methot seemed to be doing nearly as much holding by my eye.
The PP started with some bad luck for Ottawa, with both Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan fanning on the same pass. Then Hoffman put one high off the glass that rebounded to Mark Stone, but Mason got across to catch the puck between his legs, then protect it from Curtis Lazar's pokes.
Just as it looked like Ottawa was going to have another scoreless period, Mika Zibanejad won a faceoff to Hoffman, who hit Cody Ceci at the point, and Ceci's hard slapshot hit Z-bad and went in the net. The late goal had me at least more excited to see what was coming in the second.
The second period started with a bang, with the Sens shooting four hard shots wide. The Flyers then got an odd-man rush the other way, but the puck hit the post, landed under Anderson, and he swept it out. Still with no whistles in the period, Michael Del Zotto failed to keep the puck in the zone, Ryan knocked it around him and took it down two-on-one, and he made a beautiful pass to Hoffman who buried it. It gave Bobby an eight-game point streak, the longest of his career.
Just afterward, the Flyers would get a great chance, with Brayden Schenn sneaking into the zone and going in on Anderson alone. However, Andy was able to make a nice poke-check to take away the chance. There aren't many goalies who use it anymore, and Andy's one of the best. For the next several minutes, all of the pressure was Philly's, but for all their pressure they couldn't get it past Anderson.
The fourth line had a very noticeable shift shortly afterward, when Lazar was able to hold the zone and Zack Smith got off a quick wrist-shot that Mason fought off. Their play has been much improved these last few games, especially with Smith not going out of his way to take personal penalties.
The instigator favour would later be returned for real, with Chris Neil getting one in a fight with Brandon Manning. The rough stuff would then continue, with Wayne Simmonds and Mark Borowiecki getting into it. Milan Michalek would take advantage of his demotion in linemates on the fourth line by making a nice chip play to himself, then sniping it through Mason on a break. It was his first non-PP goal of the year.
To end up the period, Lazar would draw a penalty on a dumb play by Radko Gudas, hitting Lazar then forgetting he was holding a stick that swung out and caught the edge of Lazar's helmet. There were only 25 seconds left in the period, allowing Ottawa to go to the third up a man.
To start the third period, Ottawa tried their best to run out the PP, but managed to keep their PPG game streak alive with a goal with a second left in the PP. Ryan's pass deflected out to Kyle Turris who shot home his tenth of the year. For comparison, last year he got his tenth goal on Feb 5th.
For the next few minutes, the most notable part of the period was Jared Cowen knocking down Voracek, who tried to get up but didn't realize he was at the boards and face-planted into the boards. Cody Ceci knocked us out of that slump by taking an interference penalty that was a penalty, but probably wouldn't have been if the game was tied or if it was the playoffs. The Sens killed that off without much fanfare.
The rest of the game was mostly a snooze-fest from then on to be honest. The only thing I really cared about was the Craig Anderson would get to keep his shutout streak. He did. Final score: Sens 4, Flyers 0.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
His style isn't always pretty, but for the last couple games it's been great. Back-to-back shutouts has Andy firmly back in the starters role. Take that all you people trying to drum a goalie controversy!
Sens Hero: Bobby Ryan
He looked great tonight to my eyes. He had a great setup on the Hoffman goal, and was buzzing on some other things. It's tough to see how this game would've gone if he'd been out.
Honourable Mention: Zack Smith and Curtis Lazar
These two were Ottawa's best possession players on the night, and for a second night in a row the fourth line stood out. Chris Neil missing most of the game keeps him out of having a mention from me, but I have to say that if Ottawa's fourth line keeps playing like this, I'll be very happy.