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4-3 OT win over Caps keeps Sens in playoff race, saves them from themselves.

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Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

In my posts over the last two months, I've spent a lot of time discussing my thoughts on Dave Cameron and how he coaches. The way this game played only helped cement my thoughts on how Cameron handles leads (read: badly), and if it wasn't for Andrew Hammond's consistent positioning, Erik Karlsson's aggressive positioning, and Kyle Turris having just enough energy to place a perfect puck past Brayden Holtby, we'd be having a completely different conversation right now. Welcome to the 2014-15 Ottawa Senators.

The game didn't start off with such a somber tone. In fact, it started off with jubilation. After some neutral zone jawing for the first five minutes, Clarke MacArthur's smarts led to the Sens taking advantage of a tactical lapse by Barry Trotz as the Capitals went for a full line change. MacArthur, who's been excellent since his return from a concussion, sent a quick behind-the-back backhand to Mark Stone on the right wing, who entered the zone and fought off a poor check by Joel Ward to place a beautiful wrist shot top shelf on Holtby to give the Senators a 1-0 lead.

MacArthur behind the back

Washington then got into a ton of penalty trouble, and it costed them dearly. It started with Joel Ward pushing Methot into Hammond, negating a Capitals chance. On the ensuing powerplay, MacArthur is hooked by Eric Fehr and the Sens generate a couple chances with the extra man before the Capitals touch the puck, starting a 5-on-3. On the NEXT PLAY, Brayden Holtby is under pressure and flips the puck over the glass, leading to a full, extended 5-on-3 opportunity that Clarke MacArthur takes quick advantage of by snapping the puck past the glove hand of a screened Brayden Holtby to give the Senators a 2-0 lead. MacArthur had actually missed the same play from Karlsson a little earlier in the powerplay, so it's something to keep note of on ensuing Senators powerplay chances to see if it's a set play. Also, despite no assist for Mark Stone on the play (ending his streak of points on five consecutive Senators goals), his strong net front presence is exactly what the Senators wished that Chris Neil and Alex Chiasson did more effectively. The pro of Stone though?  He can bring much more than either of the former two.

Now, because of Holtby's miscue, the Senators are STILL on a 5-on-3, and after Bobby Ryan wins a puck battle on the right half-wall, he takes the puck to the middle of the ice and baits Alzner into thinking that he's taking the shot, before sending the puck to Zibanejad who one-times it home for his 20th of the year. This goal led to a number of cool milestones, which I'll document here with the embed tweets after the highlight.

You have to score on your 5-on-3s and the Senators did, twice. Hopefully this is the tonic for a porous PP, but we'll have to wait till tomorrow to see if it carries over as the game changed dramatically after this period. Going into the first intermission though? It's all green of the Senators. All four lines generated a solid scoring chance at even-strength in the first, and there was a period of time where Washington went 13 minutes without a shot attempt, according to HockeyStats.ca.

first period shot attempts

What changed in the intermission? I've got no clue, but it's clear that the Senators started to play more tentatively with the lead. The second didn't start off that way, as in the first five minutes, the Senators continued to play aggressively. Mark Borowiecki had a great stand-up in the neutral zone that led to a Bobby Ryan chance on the left wing as he darted to the middle of the ice to get two shots off on Holtby. After this though, Washington takes over the game and doesn't give it back. It starts with a back pass in the offensive zone missing Gryba completely and the rugged blueliner ends up in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin that he obviously loses, but manages to hold the 52 goal scorer to his backhand. On the next play, Marcus Johansson starts to dictate the play and gets a one-timer that hits the post from the point. On the next shift with Ottawa's 4th line and 3rd pair out, Alex Chiasson breaks his stick and Backstrom and Johansson take advantage (remember, Ovechkin is on a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov, not Backstrom). After keeping the puck to the perimeter, Johansson eventually gets a shot off from the right face-off dot that beats a tired Hammond to give the Capitals a bit of life.

The rest of the period is played mainly in the Sens end. The Sens are fragmented, and are unable to get the puck out cleanly - opting to use the glass than to take their time with the puck. Of course, it's not all on Ottawa, as the Capitals defense in particular do a really good job at being aggressive and limiting the Sens from entering the zone whenever they DO have the puck with control. From our friend Micah:

In simple terms: the Capitals are absolutely amazing at being offensive juggernauts when they're down by two or more goals, and the Senators saw that first hand tonight.

Of note, all three of the Senators right defensemen had some trouble with the Capitals team speed on the night. In the first, Jason Chimera was the most dangerous Caps forward with two great chances on Andrew Hammond. In the second, Alex Ovechkin broke in on Eric Gryba, and then Erik Karlsson, but was turned away by Hammond as he tried to go five-hole. In the third, Cody Ceci was exploited a bit by the Brooks Laich line, but Hammond stood tall. It took Troy Brouwer in Hammond's crease to beat the Masterton nominee for the second time, as despite a fantastic backcheck by Bobby Ryan, Mike Green is left unchecked as a trailer and puts the puck past Hammond. It was a controversial goal call by controversial referee, Tim Peel, as Brouwer made no effort to get out of the way and replays showed that Eric Gryba wasn't pushing him.

Brouwer himself then gets a goal after the Caps gained momentum from a strong 4-on-4 segment - not a surprise since the team has a +11 goal differential during 4-on-4 situations. The former Blackhawks player gets inside position on Kyle Turris after Erik Karlsson takes away the other rush option, and scores on a two-on-one to tie the game at three.

After this, both teams slow the game down considerably in order to settle for the point, although Erik Karlsson defends an Ovechkin rush beautifully with 2:30 left in the third, and Clarke MacArthur takes a hard Kyle Turris pass off his skate in the dying seconds. Overall? Washington outshot Ottawa 11-4 in the final frame - unacceptable for a team that has so much at stake.

Right as morale is at an all-time low after news that Detroit and Boston both won their games in a shootout, the Senators skilled players decide to try one last play to end the game in overtime. Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone aggressively pressure the Caps in the offensive zone and Turris ends up poking the puck of the stick and ends up carrying it from his own blueline all the way to the other end in order to snap it through the five-hole on Holtby to give the Senators the win.

What's next for the Senators? They managed to keep pace with the Bruins, Wings, and Penguins (!), who look like a more realistic target than the Capitals right now. Adnan has an update for us in terms of what the Sens will have to do over their remaining four games to give themselves a shot at the playoffs.

Sens Killer: Dave Cameron

Although this was a pretty low event game (5-on-5 shot attempts 56-34 Caps), the Senators took 17 of their 34 shot attempts in the first, and after that, it was clear that they sat back. Pucks forced out into the neutral zone only to have them carried back in, fragmented rushes with no support, etc. The Senators were a mess offensively and it showed in the numbers. In fact, no Senators player was above 50% in Corsi tonight at even-strength, with only Zibanejad, Ryan, and Wiercioch relatively close. Dave Cameron used his defensemen correctly for the most part, with Methot - Karlsson ~ 24 minutes, Wiercioch - Ceci ~ 19 minutes, and Borowiecki - Gryba ~ 15 minutes. You can't blame the coach for the personnel that management chooses to keep on the team, especially when the other option is Jared Cowen. The third pair certainly had a rough night though, with both Borowiecki and Gryba finishing sub-30% Corsi at even-strength and having noticeable difficulty in exiting the zone cleanly. It didn't help that they were consistently paired with the fourth line that also struggles with moving the puck, which brings me to Cameron's poor forward usage. 26 goal scorer and one of the Sens a) strongest scoring chance generator and b) strongest shot attempt generator, Mike Hoffman, had only 2 shifts in the third period, and finished the game with ~2-3 minutes less ice-time than Zack Smith, Alex Chiasson, and David Legwand (9:03 total).

Sens Hero: Andrew Hammond

Despite his back injury and .906 save percentage tonight, Hammond had a great game. He tracked the puck well and was constantly in position. He also made 5 saves off of Alexander Ovechkin, keeping him off the scoresheet, and I don't think he could be faulted on any of the Caps goals. Calm, composed, and trying his best to help his defensemen on the odd occasion that the Caps dumped the puck in, Hammond worked hard tonight.

Honourable Mention: Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone

The trio had a great night on the scoresheet, with multi-point games for the wingers and a game winning goal for the centre. Stone was his usual, dominant self when he had the puck, and MacArthur's been fantastic since he's returned from injury.

Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick

game flow

Tweets of the Night

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>It&#39;s the remix to ignition / the Sens and Caps intermission / They&#39;re out there shelling poor Holtby / Sens got that playoff ambition</p>&mdash; Carrie (@NearIdleLark) <a href="https://twitter.com/NearIdleLark/status/584508275263217664">April 5, 2015</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/NearIdleLark">@NearIdleLark</a> Good for Melnyk and crew / get dat playoff revenue / then maybe they can keep Karlsson and sign another real dman too</p>&mdash; Fear The Fin (@fearthefin) <a href="https://twitter.com/fearthefin/status/584510126662393856">April 5, 2015</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/fearthefin">@fearthefin</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/NearIdleLark">@NearIdleLark</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/carteciel">@carteciel</a> I&#39;m like Legwand looks drunk / BFR&#39;s in a funk / Been freakin all weekend that our odds don&#39;t get sunk</p>&mdash; Bretton MacLean (@Bretton) <a href="https://twitter.com/Bretton/status/584512085230354432">April 5, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Thanks for reading!