In their final game before the Christmas break, the Ottawa Senators flew south to face off against the Florida Panthers. Bobby Ryan had to sit this one out with an aggravated broken finger, so Ryan Dzingel got the call up from Binghamton. And after sitting out the past two games, Jared Cowen moved back into the line up, as Cody Ceci is also dealing with an injury. Craig Anderson started in nets for Ottawa, and Roberto Luongo got the start for Florida.
Overall, the first period was rather uneventful. While both teams exchanged a handful of scoring changes, the bulk seemed to go in Florida's favour (that would prove to be a trend). Jussi Jokinen started things off with a close call on a bad-angle shot, but Anderson was able to make the save. Shortly after, Mark Stone fed Mark Borowiecki in the high slot, who let a wrist shot go only to be stopped by Luongo's glove.
Almost halfway through the first, Borowiecki took an interference penalty on Jonathan Huberdeau. While on the power play, Jaromir Jagr went up against Alex Chiasson's stick, and the stick won. Jagr was down for a couple of minutes in considerable pain. Despite definitely drawing blood, the referees didn't see it and Ottawa avoided a 5-on-3 situation.
Jonathan Huberdeau had a knack for drawing penalties tonight. With about five minutes remaining in the opening period, Marc Methot went to the penalty box for holding on Huberdeau, sending Florida to their second power play of the game.
Ottawa would kill off the penalty. Kyle Turris managed to generate a decent short-handed chance, sending a pass to Mark Stone while they were both rushing into Florida's end. And after a close call at the other end of the ice, caused by Reilly Smith rushing to the side of Anderson's net and just missing wide, the period would end scoreless. Florida won the shot battle, out shooting Ottawa 11-5 in the opening frame.
While it looked like we were in for a pretty quiet game, that all changed about halfway through. In the opening minutes of the second period, Florida continued dominating the play. Vincent Trocheck made Sens fans nervous with a great shot, that was luckily stopped by Anderson. That would be Trocheck's third scoring chance of the game at that point. Anderson was by far Ottawa's best player, standing tall despite receiving the majority of the game's scoring chances.
Florida would open the scoring just under halfway through the period, when Corban Knight snuck around the defenceman and ripped a snap shot past Anderson. Both Quinton Howden and Jaromir Jagr picked up assists on the goal. Without much surprise to anyone watching the game, Florida was up 1-0.
Moments later, Anderson was put to the test again. After stopping a shot from the point, it bounced off him and into the slot. Trocheck was on the doorstep waiting to tuck it away. But a sprawling Anderson closed the door and kept his team alive.
While Ottawa is all to familiar with early whistles not going in their favour, that changed in this game. During a scramble in front of the net, Anderson couldn't cover the puck, but it was no longer in the referee's sight. The ref blew the whistle, only to watch Aaron Ekblad bank in the lose puck a second later. The goal was obviously called back right away.
In the remaining minutes of the second period, both teams would exchange a handful of penalties. Willie Mitchell was called for high sticking on Shane Prince. Ottawa was unable to capitalize on the power play, but Mika Zibanejad made a very impressive play on the backcheck, taking away the puck to stop a near breakaway. Both Ryan Dzingel and Jared Cowen would take penalties in the final five minutes of the period (slashing and holding, respectively). The Sens killed off Dzingel's penalty, but had to carry over Cowen's and begin the third period on the penalty kill.
The second period would prove to be costly for the Senators, as Curtis Lazar left the game with a lower body injury and did not return. It appears that Lazar blocked a shot while on the penalty kill. He wouldn't play another shift after that.
#Sens forward Curtis Lazar (lower body injury) will not return to tonight's game.— Sens communications (@Media_Sens) December 23, 2015
After 40 minutes of play, the Sens were outshot 30-12, managing only four shots in the second period.
The Sens may have started the third period on the penalty kill, but that wouldn't last long. Just 43 seconds in, Florida was caught with too many men on the ice, and their power play would end there. Shortly after, Mark Stone tipped in a point shot from Erik Karlsson to tie the game and keep the Sens alive. Mika Zibanejad also picked up an assist on Stone's goal.
It seemed like the period of penalties at the start, as Kyle Turris took a holding penalty on Willie Mitchell at the three-minute mark. Luckily, Ottawa would kill off that penalty without much trouble.
The rest of the third period played out like the first 40 minutes of the game, with Florida horribly outplaying (and out shooting) Ottawa. If not for the spectacular play of Craig Anderson, there is no telling where this game would have gone. Multiple scoring changes from players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck proved to be no problem for Anderson, as he turned away every puck sent in his direction this period.
He managed to hold on and keep the Sens alive through to the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime. His heroics didn't stop there. Shortly into the 3-on-3 play, Florida was granted the rare 3-on-0 breakaway. When it looked like this game was surely over, Anderson shut the door. While this period (and this game) didn't deliver much for fans, the final seconds sure did. We were treated to an Erik Karlsson breakaway, followed directly by one from Jaromir Jagr. Merry Christmas, hockey fans!
Overtime would end without any resolution, and this game went to the shootout. Unfortunately, no Sens shooters were able to beat Luongo, and both Brandon Pirri and Aleksander Barkov scored to give Florida the win. In the end, total shots were 40-16 in favour of Florida.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Craig Anderson deserves all three stars for this game. He is the only reason that the Sens managed to limp away from this with a point. With 39 saves and a .975 SV%, Andy was by far and away the best player on the ice for Ottawa. It's unfortunate that he was given this outcome with a performance like that.
Honourable Mention: Luck
1) A missed high-sticking penalty that would have resulted in a 5-on-3 power play for Florida. 2) An early whistle that caused Aaron Ekblad's goal to be recalled by the referee. 3) 16 shots in total between regulation and overtime. 4) 16 shots! Needless to say, luck was on the Senators' side tonight. Otherwise, the result would have been much different (and probably would not have involved a point for the Sens).
Sens Killer: Shots
This was a stressful game, but we are going into the holidays and could use something to smile about. So, here you go:
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick:
Happy Holidays, everyone!