All you can ask for sometimes is a hard fought game against a tough division opponent, and that's what we got on this rare 5pm Sunday start. There were signs of growing animosity, with 49 penalty minutes and two game misconducts, in addition to all the regular goal scoring that we see in these matchups. Even more impressive for the Senators is that they played most of the game without two regular defensemen and without another top-six forward, but still managed to stick in this game until two empty net goals at the end.
There was certainly a lot of action in a black-and-blue first period. The game started off with a thunderous hit from
forward Mark Borowiecki on Brian Boyle. Boyle landed on his face and left the game immediately, while Borowiecki had to answer to Brayden Coburn. Both got fighting majors and game misconducts, with Borowiecki getting an additional 5 minutes for interference (major) and Coburn with a 2 minute instigator, leaving the Lightning with a 3 minute powerplay. For those wondering if Borowiecki will get suspended for the hit, Matt Niskanen laid a similar one on JT Brown last night without any follow-up punishment.
The penalty kill started off eventful as well, with Mark Stone showing his vision to set up Cody Ceci with an attempt on Bishop, before backchecking hard to lift the stick of Steven Stamkos on a partial breakaway. I'm a believer of the theory that states that good defense can be separated from bad defense by watching how a defender takes the puck away from the opposition and how cleanly they do it. Mark Stone, like Marian Hossa, is great at this, and often strips the puck clean off of his opponents stick at will. While we're on this topic, defense is something that *everyone* has to do, not just defensemen - a position that I'm starting to think was misnamed, leading to a lot of problems when people try to analyze this aspect of the game.
Anywho, the Senators score their league leading 8th shorthanded goal of the year thanks to some more puck-stealing ability, this time by Curtis Lazar, who then springs Zack Smith. Smith is able to use his backhand to shield the puck and flicks it underneath a laterally moving Bishop for his 8th of the year.
A couple noteworthy items:
#Sens scored seven shorthanded goals last season - already with eight in their 34th game.— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) December 20, 2015
smith has 8 goals in 33 games this season. he had 2 in 37 the year before.— baechenski (@brochenski) December 20, 2015
Unfortunately for the Senators, their lead didn't last long. Victor Hedman gets the puck to Alex Killorn, who draws some attention before finding Nikita Nesterov for a bullet point shot on a screened Hammond to tie the game. It gets worse: Zack Smith minimizes his praise by taking tripping penalty, putting the Senators on a 5-on-3 for the second straight game against the Lightning. Although the Senators penalty killers put up an admirable fight, the skill of the Bolts down low do them in. Vlad Namestinikov and Nikita Kucherov execute a small cycle effectively on the right side of Hammond before the latter sends a quick cross-crease pass to Steven Stamkos, who deposits the puck behind Hammond for a 2-1 lead.
After getting the carpet pulled out from under them, the Sens quickly find themselves in a 9-2 deficit on the shot clock with half the period remaining. The tide starts to turn thanks to some nice offensive zone shifts from the bottom-six, with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Curtis Lazar, and Shane Prince leading the way. The Senators are unable to capitalize on a powerplay garnered due to the stupidity of Ryan Callahan, who stole the puck from underneath Andrew Hammond and potted it well after the whistle. However, it does allow the team to close the edge in the shots department, 11-8 Tampa Bay.
Note: the Senators didn't miss on one shot attempt taken that period, but did have four attempts blocked.
The second period starts off with a bang. Curtis Lazar loses a puck battle (albeit he didn't have much help) and Methot misses a hit, leaving Blunden and Angelidis to outpower Wideman and Hammond as the latter pots the puck. Dave Cameron uses his coaches challenge due to goaltender interference, as Blunden appeared to interfere and push his stick into Hammond - a worthy challenge seeing how questionable this call has been lately. Alas, after a long review, the referees deem it a good goal, stating that Wideman caused Blunden to skate into Hammond. All-in-all, the fourth line of Tampa Bay outpowers the fourth line of the Senators, and it's 3-1. As for my opinion: I'd really like it if the NHL figured out when players are allowed to make contact with a goaltender and make calls consistently.
Things get worse for the already-depleted Senators, as Sens PR announces that Bobby Ryan won't be returning to the game after aggravating his finger and that Cody Ceci is out with an upper-body injury. It's at this moment of disarray that the Bolts start to take over the game, outshooting the Senators 8-1 with half of the second period remaining. As always though, the Captain comes to save the day. After Nikita Kucherov took his second lazy penalty of the period by holding Zibanejad as the hulking centre tried to join a rush started by Patrick Wiercioch and Alex Chiasson, Erik Karlsson and his minions (copyright Adnan) go to work. Hoffman bursts into the offensive zone with speed, battles to win the puck from Steven Stamkos, and draws in the penalty killers before sending the puck to Karlsson, who wires it blocker side past Bishop. Although he wasn't screened, Bishop could only throw his hands up in the air as it was just a perfectly placed laserbeam of a shot.
"Ben, is there a better player in the world than Erik Karlsson?" pic.twitter.com/spbCIm6THO— Steve Dash (@iamstevedash) December 20, 2015
The Bolts wander into the second intermission with a 25-18 lead in shots, which is a better result for the Sens considering how the first half of the period went.
Erik Karlsson at 23:57 of TOI through two periods or 7:24 more than Tampa's highest player (Stralman, 16:33).— The 6th Sens (@6thSens) December 20, 2015
The third period starts off with very little action. Tampa Bay clearly came out with a gameplan: limit Erik Karlsson's time and space and clog up the neutral zone, and they did just that. By forechecking just one player, they were able to stack the red line and prevent any major offensive zone pressure by the Senators, leading to a lot of failed dump-ins. The Lightning get the first major chance of the period off of a penalty shot (!) as Filppula sneaks past the Senators defense and Karlsson is forced to haul him down. Hammond was up to the task though, stymying Filppula with a strong left pad save.
The Senators survive long enough for another powerplay opportunity, as Namestnikov high-sticks Zack Smith with 5:05 remaining. Unfortunately for our heroes in red, the Lightning penalty killers do a fantastic job of aggressively attacking the Sens and Ben Bishop stood tall to stop any puck that came his way. With a little over 2 minutes remaining, Dave Cameron pulled Andrew Hammond, but the Lightning pot two quick empty net goals (Killorn, Stamkos) to make the score sound a lot worse than the game actually was.
Incredibly, this is the first time that Andrew Hammond has lost back-to-back starts in his career, although he did play solid in the loss. What I'm most worried about is the Senators not having enough energy left to play the Florida Panthers on Tuesday evening.
Sens Hero aka Erik Karlsson Appreciation Section
Looks like Erik Karlsson's 36:34 today was the 25th most ever by a player in a regular season game ending in reg. https://t.co/aJcVE95Lja— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) December 21, 2015
Well. Karlsson shattered his season high of ~33 minutes tonight, and looked absolutely exhausted by the end of the game. He was excellent in keeping the Senators in the game until the very end, and made multiple strong defensive plays in addition to his goal. What we often forget (underappreciate?) is his ability to routinely make passes like the one below. His skating, shot, hockey IQ and stick skills are so good that we often forget about his passing ability, but even that is A+.
This Karlsson pass is absurd. https://t.co/2x2U8kmbPb— Emmanuel Perry (@MannyElk) December 20, 2015
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick
Thanks for reading!