It was the game when fans started wondering if Dave Cameron was going full Paulrus. Paul MacLean had made some curious decisions (Chris Neil on Jason Spezza's wing?), but scratching Shane Prince and Colin Greening to play Dave Dziuzynski and Mark Borowiecki on the fourth line topped anything that had been done before. Though as Adnan pointed out, the return of Patrick Wiercioch to the defence meant the decision was probably a net gain.
Only seconds in, Jaromir Jagr got a great scoring chance that Craig Anderson turned aside. In fact, Jagr got three pretty dangerous scoring chances in the first 10 minutes of the game. It was looking like that line was going to tear apart the Senators all night. However, it was Logan Shaw who scored the first goal of the night, marking the second time in two recaps for me that an opposition player got his first NHL goal. It was a pretty nice play by Shaw who came in two-on-one, saw that Anderson was cheating pass-side, and so fired home a well-placed shot. The goal led to a great moment on the Panthers broadcast, with Denis Potvin commenting that both Sens defencemen (Borowiecki and Wiercioch) were caught deep, leading to only a forward being back, and then he realized it was Cody Ceci and was very confused.
Ottawa nearly got it right back, with Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman having a two-on-one of their own, but Roberto Luongo got just enough on the puck to deflect it wide. It was a nice save by Bobby Lu, and not his last of the night. Moments later, Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith on yet another two-on-one got a little too fancy, allowing Marc Methot to break up the second pass between the two. Florida would get a powerplay off an Alex Chiasson holding call, but nothing came of it. Late in the period, Wiercioch would draw a weak slashing call off Brandon Pirri, and Ottawa would get 40 seconds of powerplay until the period expired. (Your top PP, now featuring Zack Smith instead of Hoffman!)
Smith must have known the haters were coming out, because he started the period by scoring on the powerplay. Mark Stone found him in the slot on a one-time pass, and Smith put it flat on the ice under Luongo's pads, a goal Lu would probably want back. From that point onward, most of the period was Florida's. Jared Cowen would take a penalty, but Ottawa's PK continued to impress on the night, limiting the chances to the last 10 seconds or so of the PP.
The period was pretty slow to start. Ten minutes into the period, shots on goal were 2-1 for Ottawa. But as the time wound down, Florida would turn it up. Trocheck found Reilly Smith with a pretty breakaway pass, and Smith pulled out some cool moves. Anderson seemed to be expecting Smith to deke back to the forehand, so Smith called his bluff and roofed it backhand. Andy would then need to be sharp on a flurry of chances, including an impressive one where Quentin Howden tried to force through a pass on a two-on-one which Methot blocked, only for Howden to pick up the rebound and shoot it on goal trying to catch Andy going the wrong way.
Yet another odd-man rush, this time for the Barkov line, led to Zack Smith being hit with a penalty. But Ottawa's PK again stood tall, this time with Cody Ceci drawing a hooking penalty while trying to clear the zone. In the four-on-four situation, Ottawa actually got sustained zone time in the Panthers' zone. They wouldn't generate much in 30 seconds of powerplay time, but in the dying seconds of the period Luongo absolutely robbed Jean-Gabriel Pageau in front:
Luongo save(s) pic.twitter.com/UBCvnMSBgY— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 9, 2015
Having 13 shots through two periods was hardly a recipe for success, and the Sens would need to turn things up in the third if they had any hope of getting the win.
Mika Zibanejad would draw yet another questionable penalty for the Sens, and they would make quick work of the man advantage, with Kyle Turris roofing a Bobby Ryan rebound with Luongo already sprawled on the ice to make the first save.
Zack Smith would draw the next penalty of the game. It was probably a boarding penalty on Erik Gudbranson, but Smith helped matters by closing his eyes and grabbing his head when he hit the ice. Erik Karlsson would take three shots on goal in the first 30 seconds of the PP, maybe very aware of the fact that he was in danger of going two games without a point for just the second time this season.
There would be a nervous moment when Marc Methot blew a tire leaving his own zone with the puck, but every Sens player had already jumped up on attack. This allowed Jussi Jokinen to come in on a breakaway, but Anderson stopped it with his face. It was the third breakaway of the game for the Cats; they'd also had three two-on-ones. There was some shock when just a couple shifts later, Borowiecki jumped out with Turris and Ryan. I don't understand why a hard-hitting third-pairing defenceman was playing wing on the top line. At that point, I decided Cameron had truly gone full Paulrus. I'm not sure if he thinks he's making great decisions or if he's trying to make a statement.
Somehow, the line juggling would work. Chris Wideman took a shot from the point that Dmitry Kulikov blocked onto Mike Hoffman's stick, and he fired home his 15th of the season. Hoffman's reaction said everything: he'd been dropped in the lineup to send a message, and the goal was his way of sticking it to his coach. So naturally, right after the goal Borocop was back out there with Turris and Ryan. You know things are bad when bRian5or6 starts being serious:
Dave Cameron should be fired. The end— bRian (@brian5or6) December 9, 2015
The Trocheck line would get some sustained pressure in the Sens' zone, culminating in a tripping penalty taken by Cody Ceci. Halfway through the PP, they'd pull Luongo to have a two-man advantage. Reilly Smith tried to deke Mark Stone, but that's not easy to do against the best takeaway man in the league. Stone took the puck cleanly and fed Pageau who put an easy goal into the empty cage for his fourth shortie of the season. That ties him with the Bruins for fifth in the league. (Though really, without his four, Ottawa wouldn't be top-five Pageau would be tied for fourth. Anyway.)
That would essentially do it for the game. Jokinen would get a late penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, but it didn't matter. We already knew who'd won.
BLACK DOOM ARROW: Dave Cameron
What was this guy thinking? I could excuse playing Borowiecki over Prince or Greening ONLY because he thought he might need an extra d-man on the penalty kill. Sure. But then playing him as your top line winger over your top scorer? Who then scores the GWG? And after commercial break, you put Borocop back out there with Turris and Ryan? NKB was saying some stuff on Twitter about how accountability goes both ways -- coaches also need to be held accountable. Cameron did his best to make his team lose tonight, and they managed to fight through it. If I were Andre Tourigny or Jason Smith, I'd wonder if we could healthy scratch the coach next game.
Sens Hero: Mark Stone
Led the team's forwards in time on ice, drove the second line to possession respectability, and finished the night with three assists (all primary).
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
He scored the game-winner despite his coach's best attempts to sabotage him. Good on him.
Honourable Mention: Zack Smith
Had a great night playing on the second line and the top PP. I don't want to see him there long-term, but he doesn't look out of place.
Dishonourable Mention: Chris Neil and David Dziurzinsky
Know how many shot attempts the Sens got with these guys on the ice? Zero. Yeah, bring back Prince.
Sens Killer: Jaromir Jagr
For my money he was the best Panther tonight, forechecking hard, cycling the puck well, controlling the ice nearly every time he was on it. The Sens' top line was up against his a couple times, and they were completely hemmed in by Jagr and his linemates.