Normally a 3-2 loss in overtime to Carolina, in November, for a team that's now 7-4-3, wouldn't be a cause for concern. If all you ever did was glance at the score line as it crossed your mobile browser of choice, you might not think twice about it. Frankly, if you didn't watch tonight's game you probably saved yourself some grief. The Sens escaped from Carolina with a single point, but were it not for Andrew Hammond this game would have been a laugher. When you get outshot 46-21, including 21-5 in the third period and overtime, it's going to be hard to take a lot of positives out of the game. And that's before accounting for the fact that the Senators somehow held the lead until there were less than five seconds remaining in the game. It's probably one of those games you just want to forget.
That's not to say there weren't any highlights. The Senators' first goal, on the power play, was actually a thing of beauty:
That's a wonderful play from start to finish. Patrick Wiercioch does well to hold onto the puck before finding Mark Stone with the first pass; it would have been very easy to just dump the puck in from centre but Wiercioch demonstrates the patience and puck skills that make him an effective NHL player when he's going well. After he gets it back from Stone, Wiercioch feathers a beautiful pass to a streaking Alex Chiasson. It seems like small, simple stuff but far too often this year the Sens have been guilty of just banging it off the boards and praying. This was a skill goal created by continued possession and speed through the neutral zone. The Sens need more of this.
Besides the aforementioned Andrew Hammond, who we'll get back to in a moment, the other highlight was Chris Wideman's first career NHL goal. It came off something of a broken play, but it's a great moment for the kid. Shane Prince also had a very strong game, and looked more than deserving of his place on the first line. Cameron's choice to bump him for Lazar in the last five minutes in order to protect the lead was a bit puzzling.
Otherwise, even though the Sens led for a long stretch of the game, there really weren't too many positives. Carolina carried the play through and through. The Sens rarely were able to break out with any speed, and any chances they did generate were relegated to a shot attempt or two off the rush. The third period was particularly atrocious: the 'Canes managed 36 shot attempts at 5v5 -- the Senators managed just 9. Somewhere in that mess, Jared Cowen bore the brunt of Cameron's wrath and found himself nailed to the bench for the second half of the third period. This was a bit of a puzzling move, not because Cowen played particularly well, but that his performance tonight is a pretty fair representation of how he's played all season. It's not really a question of whether Cowen's play on the whole made him deserving of a benching, but rather: why now?
When the 'Canes pulled their goalie with just over two minutes left, the pressure was intense. Ottawa was forced to ice the puck several times, even calling time-out at one point to rest a tired group. Nonetheless, it was still surprising when Skinner tied the game with just over three seconds left. For so long, going back to last year when their magical run began, the Senators had been on the right side of every meaningful bit of luck. Virtually every bounce had gone their way, and they just kept on winning. So it was kind of a strange feeling to have Skinner tie it; it almost felt kind of unfair. When Staal won it in overtime, however, there wasn't anything unfair about it. It felt kind of inevitable.
The Senators haven't played especially well so far this year; their results are masking a team that's been getting outplayed, sometimes badly outplayed, at 5v5 virtually all season. An NHL season is a long winding road, and there's plenty of time to course correct yet, but this game felt like a bad omen. Hope you don't really believe in magic.
Sens Hero: Andrew Hammond
At some point the skeptics, like yours truly, are going to have to re-consider their evaluation of the Hamburglar. His performance tonight was the only reason this game was even close. He's been great this year in his limited starts. He just might be for real.
Sens Zero: The rest of the team
It's hard to pin a poor performance on one particular player when the shot attempts are 76-34 at 5v5. The only player to break even in shot attempts was the mysteriously benched Shane Prince. Everyone else was underwater, some by a wide margin.
Sens Killer: Justin Faulk
Jordan Staal got the winner, but Justin Faulk was a menace all night. The Canes dominated the play when he was on the ice, to the tune of 36 CF, 6 CA in just over 20 minutes of 5v5 play.