The Ottawa Senators came to the Bell Centre to face the Montreal Canadiens with no one really knowing what to expect. The Habs have been the NHL's best team thus far, and Ottawa has had some showings of brilliance and some awful moments. With Carey Price out, Montreal had to turn to Mike Condon in net, who has been phenomenal to start his NHL career, but nobody's a career .944 goalie. Would this be the night he'd collapse?
The first period on the scoresheet wasn't very exciting. No goals, no penalties, shots were 10-7 for Montreal. However, the period wasn't particularly boring. Early in the game Shane Prince used his speed to give himself a fantastic scoring chance. Montreal would get a lot of zone time, but good defensive positioning and sticks kept the Habs from generating much of anything. Alex Chiasson in particular stood out with his solid play in his own zone.
Later in the period, the Habs would appear to take the lead off Tomas Plekanec's stick, but the referees immediately whistled for contact with the goaltender by Brendan Gallagher.
Later in the period, Chiasson would set up a great play where Jean-Gabriel Pageau gave Cody Ceci a huge chance, but Condon came up with an even huger save. It's nice to see Ceci the last few games be confident enough to jump up into the play.
Later, Mark Borowiecki made a great defensive play, stopping Paul Byron on what looked like it could be a breakaway. Borocop often puts himself out of position to make a big hit, but on this play he caught Byron with speed and stripped the puck off his stick cleanly. Credit where credit is due. The last couple minutes of the period felt like the end of a basketball game, with whistles seemingly every 15 seconds. There was some late action in the period, but neither team could score.
The second period started off with a bang. Chiasson got in with a good scoring chance, then Dale Weise had a wrap-around that Craig Anderson surprisingly stopped. The Kyle Turris line had a golden chance, but somehow the puck stayed out. Shortly after, Ceci would take a high-sticking penalty and Montreal would go to the powerplay. On the powerplay, P.K. Subban would fan on a shot at the point, giving Pageau a shorthanded breakaway. This being Montreal, he of course made no mistake.
It was Pageau's fourth goal of the year. It was also his second goal of the year against the Habs, and his second shorthanded tally of the season. Not to mention his second shorthanded goal of the year against Condon and the Habs.
Ottawa would kill off that penalty, but nearly immediately after, Marc Methot would take an interference penalty. I'm not convinced it was a penalty, with Gallagher bearing down on Anderson at full speed and Methot having no choice but to stop him, but it was still called. Maybe it was to make up for the missed Chiasson high-stick on Subban earlier in the period. On the penalty kill, Borowiecki would get carried away, taking out both himself and Chiasson. This would give Montreal a lot of wide open space, and some nice passing allowed Weise to put the puck home off his shinpad.
Nothing good is going to happen after being held in your zone for more than a minute on the penalty kill, but it would be nice to see Borocop stay in position. This was Weise's seventh goal of the season, which just seems wrong.
Milan Michalek and Chiasson had two 2-on-1s sandwiched around the ensuing commercial break. On the first, Michalek couldn't pass and Condon could get square to him. On the second, Chiasson feathered a saucer pass over to Michalek who rang it hard off the crossbar. Shortly after, I noticed that the fans were booing Pageau, which is just fantastic. I don't think very many other third-line centres in the league get booed by one team's fans.
For a period that started out well for Ottawa, the ending seemed to be all Montreal. Anderson made a variety of great saves, as the Habs seemed to keep regrouping and gaining the zone. I don't know if I've ever seen a game where so many Sens clearing attempts were blocked by the opposition. The Sens escaped the period tied at 1-1, but down 22-14 in shots.
The third period didn't start quite as high-octane, but the Sens managed to get their first powerplay when Jeff Petry flipped the puck over the glass for the dumbest penalty in sports. On the powerplay, Chiasson scored a much-deserved goal, but he was robbed by a quick whistle. You think the refs would've learned to not blow the whistle too quickly in Sens-Habs games. As the penalty expired, Ceci had great awareness to realize he should hang back for Weise coming out of the box. He turned an attempted breakaway pass into an icing call.
From then on, the teams would pick up right back where they left off, with scoring chances galore for each team, and both goalies standing tall. It really could've been anyone's game. Marc Methot would take his second penalty of the game with under four to play, but Anderson would stand tall and the Sens would escape. That would do it for regulation. The Sens were the first team of the year to take the Habs to overtime.
Every extra-time Sens game so far this season had ended in a shootout, but not this one. The winning goal came only 34 seconds in. Mike Hoffman picked up an errant pass and skated in essentially 3-on-1. He looked like he was passing to Erik Karlsson the whole time, then faked the shot to get Jeff Petry out of position, and finally fired a hard pass to Kyle Turris who just had to tuck it in the net. It was a beautiful goal, and earned the Sens a much-needed victory.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Remember his terrible game against Detroit? Me neither. Andy was solid all night, especially on the late PK. He deserved to be the game's first star
Sens Heroes: Milan Michalek - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Alex Chiasson
This was easily Ottawa's best line on the night. Pageau got the team's lone goal in regulation, and Michalek/Chiasson should've had at least one more each. Chiasson was especially noticeable, and deserves credit for playing arguably his best game of the season.
The Adventures of BoroCowen:
I'm tired of ragging on these two, so I think rather than giving them mentions, there should just be a recurring feature in which some notable good and bad plays by them are mentioned. On the plus, Borowiecki had a great play to break up a near-breakaway for Byron, and made the rest of the NHL proud by rasslin' Gallagher to the ice on the PK. On the bad side, Borowiecki's overcommittal on the PK led to Montreal's only goal. As for Cowen, he had a couple nice plays, including a solid defensive takeaway and pass out of the zone that set up a 2-on-1 the other way. When the puck's in front of the net, he seems content to just shoot or glove it to the corner. The only problem is that from my angle, it often looks like he's trying to tuck it in his own net.
Sens Zero: Possession
Overall tonight, the Sens had three players above 50% 5v5 Corsi: Chris Neil, Matt Puempel, and Chiasson. Neil and Puempel only played 7:51 and 6:32 at 5v5 respectively, so they hardly count. Getting 40% of the shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, and shots on goal isn't going to win you a game most nights. Ottawa can't afford to get hemmed in their zone like that. It's hard to pin this on any one player when most of the team did this badly.
Sens Killer: Mike Condon
Seriously, who is this guy? He's like this year's Andrew Hammond.
Which Hab do I dislike the most? Brendan Gallagher or Dale Weise
Gallagher earned himself some favours tonight among Sens fans by disallowing a goal, but he also drew a soft penalty, and took a run at Anderson one time he came out to play the puck. I can't imagine very many non-Habs fan liking the guy. Weise on the other hand seems to always score against Ottawa. I don't know why, but somehow he seems to bring it against this team. Pretty hard to like a guy like that.
Hab I dislike less after tonight: Brian Flynn
He wears #32 this year, which takes him off the list of players I don't like because they wear EK's 65.