After a fairly successful road trip, getting four of a possible six points, the Ottawa Senators returned home to face the Flyers. Ottawa ended their previous homestand with a 4-0 drubbing of these same Flyers, so the Sens were hoping to get back on track. Craig Anderson was set to make his eighth consecutive start, a little worrisome considering the fatigue he seemed to show against the Coyotes on Saturday night.
The game got going early for Ottawa, with Mika Zibanejad drawing a penalty only 20 seconds in. Michael Del Zotto decided it was a good idea to cross-check Z-bad in the head on his way down, but unfortunately for him this was against the rules. Ottawa would get some good zone time on the powerplay, but couldn't beat Steve Mason. That description would pretty much cover it for the next ten minutes of the period, with Ottawa generating the better chances but nobody getting the upper hand.
With five minutes to go, Claude Giroux carried the puck into the zone and waited and waited. He hit Shayne Gostisbehere with a crisp pass, who then proceeded to wait and walk in slowly before snapping it over Anderson's shoulder. The poise Gostisbehere showed to not one-time the puck, then take the space that was given him before firing it home was reminiscent of Erik Karlsson. I don't know why Ghost was given so much space given his recent goal-scoring prowess, but full credit to him for taking advantage. It later came out that the Flyers actually had six skaters on the ice when the goal was scored, but I can hardly fault the refs for missing a slow change that was 120 feet from the puck.
Not long after, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Alex Chiasson skated in on a two-on-one, but Pageau tried to force one more pass even when the option was hardly there. It was too bad to see them pass up on a shot. Thankfully for the Sens, not long after Evgeny Medvedev would show the issues with simply throwing the puck hard around behind your net. Cody Ceci would streak in and intercept the clearing attempt? pass? Anyway. Ceci would hit Zack Smith in the middle, who fired home his sixth of the season, putting him at a perfectly reasonable 33.3% for shooting on the season. It was a good read by Ceci, and a great shot by Smith snapped quickly past Steve Mason.
Late in the first, Sean Couturier took what I thought was a pretty weak holding call against Bobby Ryan. Maybe it was a makeup call for Michael Raffl slashing Ryan's stick earlier with no call. It meant that the Sens were starting the second period still up a man.
Ottawa's PP didn't go as hoped, with Milan Michalek taking the only roughing penalty out of a scrum with 21 seconds left. So after a brief bout of 4-on-4, the Sens went on the penalty kill. On the PK, at some point Jared Cowen tried to do a between-the-legs behind-the-back clearing attempt which shockingly failed. It allowed the Flyers to maintain the zone, eventually getting a goal from Evgeny Medvedev, his first in the NHL. It led to a funny moment when Wayne Simmonds went to get the puck for him, but Medvedev, unaware of dumb NHL superstitions, went to get it for himself.
Once again, Ottawa would get the goal right back. Del Zotto would intercept the Sens at the blue line and flip it out, but Ceci stepped up and sent it right back up. Kyle Turris could chip it past Del Zotto, Ryan got on the puck, and he hit Mike Hoffman who was all alone on the far side. When you get Hoffman a pass that clean with that much room that close to the net, he's not going to make a mistake. He snapped home his 11th, tying him with Turris for the team lead despite having played four fewer games.
Shane Prince would take a penalty, his first of the year, shortly thereafter by fighting for body position but losing out, forcing him into a hooking call. Philly would have some good puck movement, but nothing that really troubled Anderson on the powerplay. Bobby Ryan then nearly gave the Sens the lead, but his tip-in of a Cody Ceci shot was deemed a high-stick on the ice, and video review failed to overturn that call. It loomed big, because it wasn't much later that Karlsson would make a nice takeaway at the blue line, but then send a hard pass straight up the middle from in behind the opposition net that missed everybody. With EK caught deep, that gave the Flyers a great chance to break up the ice with numbers. Sean Couturier hit a streaking Wayne Simmonds whose shot was saved by Anderson, but the rebound went straight back to Simmonds who buried it. It was a quick swing in the emotions of Sens fans (and, likely, Flyers fans too, but I don't know any).
With two minutes left in the period, Mark Borowiecki would get too aggressive on Jakub Voracek who had yet to touch the puck, leading to an interference penalty that would make Ottawa finish out the period on the PK. The shots were 18-5 for the Flyers in the period. For comparison, Arizona had managed 19 shots against Ottawa in the entire previous game. Ottawa may have managed a goal, but the overall effort was pretty dismal. Milan Michalek had also taken a Radko Gudas shot off his hand after the whistle, and had left the bench. He didn't return in the game.
The third didn't start any better for Ottawa, with Mika Zibanejad getting crushed in the head by Gudas, then leaving the game. It looked absolutely like the kind of hit the NHL is trying to remove, but there was no call. Down two forwards, Cameron ended up playing some very odd lines. Prince-Lazar-Neil? Smith-Pageau-Ryan? Things went from weird to weirder there with Prince then being swapped out for Chiasson on that mishmash line.
After what seemed like Ottawa going offside 1000 times, Borowiecki would take another penalty, jockeying with Simmonds behind the net before taking him out at the ankles. Ottawa would kill off the penalty, mostly pretty calmly, and Borowiecki would get out of the box and promptly ice the puck, keeping the tired penalty killers on for another faceoff.
With 3:30 left in the game, Ottawa would finally get actual sustained pressure in the Flyers' zone. Ottawa kept gaining the zone and all Philly could do was dump it right out again. With two minutes left, Ottawa pulled their goalie. What felt like two seconds later, Karlsson gave the puck away to Simmonds, who hit Couturier with a pass to score on the empty net. That effectively sealed the game. Ottawa would pull Andy again and maintain the zone, but get almost nothing through to Mason. Hoffman would whiff on a point shot in the dying seconds, allowing Couturier to race in for his second of the night, except he put it wide of the empty net. In the end, it didn't matter, with the Flyers walking away with the 4-2 win.
After the game, Cameron said Michalek would be out a while, and offered no update on Zibanejad.
Honourable Mention: Cody Ceci
To my eyes, Ceci had the best offensive moments tonight. His interceptions led to two goals, and he nearly had another assist, only for it to be foiled by Ryan's high stick. He also came within inches of tying it in the third. Nobody had a great game tonight, but Ceci's was pretty good.
Honourable Mention: Zack Smith
Not only did he have a goal, he was Ottawa's best possession player on the night. Full marks for that.
Dishnourable Mention: Mark Borowiecki and Jared Cowen
For Borocop's part, he took two needless penalties that hurt Ottawa's chances at a comeback. For Cowen's part, he made a few poor defensive plays. The decision making of these two can be awful, and I don't think Ottawa can afford to have both in the lineup on the same night. Dead horse, consider yourself beaten.
Sens Killer: Radko Gudas
He single-handedly removed two of Ottawa's players from the game.
Actual Sens Killer: Wayne Simmonds
In my mind, he was the most effective Flyers player tonight. When he's on his game, he can be a threat both physically and on the scoresheet, and tonight he was on.
Poor Decisions: Dave Cameron on Shane Prince
I don't understand why Prince got two shifts totalling 1:09 in the third period. With scorers Zibanejad and Michalek out injured, I don't see why Neil gets triple that time, or Lazar gets quadruple that time. I think Prince's offensive skill should get him a chance when the team needs a goal.