It was a game that had been marked on the calendar for more than a week. Brad Marchand had been suspended three games for interferingly clipping Mark Borowiecki, and his first game back was going to be against the Sens. So suddenly a lot of people were looking forward to this Senators-Bruins tilt for reasons other than January playoff positioning. The Sens said all the right things before the game about not taking stupid penalties in the name of revenge, but their play on the ice would demonstrate whether or not they actually meant it.
The game started with a classic Bob Cole moment, declaring the Hoffman-Zibanejad-Michalek group "Ottawa's good line", and that they must be Ottawa's top line. Rather than, you know, Ryan-Turris-Stone. But really, by Cole's standards, that hardly even counts as a mistake.
From that point, I didn't write any notes until the first commercial break. The play was mostly sloppy, and the whistles were frequent. The most notable thing was some pushing Chris Neil did with Landon Ferraro and Max Talbot early. The game had the feel that it was waiting to break out - the fighting, not the scoring that is. Nobody threatened to score early in the game. When even Bob Cole is saying the game has a slow pace, you know not much is happening.
Near the 10-minute mark of the period, the teams traded good chances, but Craig Anderson turned aside a shot by Brad Marchand, and then Shane Prince couldn't handle a bouncing puck on a rebound with the net gaping, putting his shot high. Still both teams seemed out of sync, with lots of offsides and icings affecting the pace.
Thankfully we were saved from a terrible opening period by a Sens goal. Erik Karlsson blocked a shot in his own end, and Mika Zibanejad flipped it over to Milan Michalek. Milo made a nice pass up to Karlsson, who gained the zone with Z-bad and then flipped him the puck, giving him a mini-breakaway. A quick forehand-backhand deke put him around Tuukka Rask for an easy flip into the net. It was a nice move by Zibanejad, but for my money, Michalek's perfect saucer pass out of the zone deserved a lot of the credit.
Play would continue, and there was a long delay after the next commercial break as the video room reviewed a goal that nobody seemed to think had gone in. I didn't see any celebrations, and on the replay the puck always seemed to be at least a foot away from the goal line. With the period winding down, Torey Krug took a high-sticking call trying to cover Jean-Gabriel Pageau in front. Krug was probably just happy that he could actually reach a player's face with his stick. The Bruins would kill the penalty, but with Ottawa having some good chances.
Late in the period the Bs would nearly score, but Chris Neil saved a goal with the puck trickling behind Andy. It was a good heads-up play by Neiler. That would do it for the period, with something amazing happening: Ottawa having the shot lead and the goal lead, by counts of 16-10 and 1-0 respectively. I can't remember the last time Ottawa outshot an opponent and had the lead.
The first period started rather poorly for the Sens. A point shot by Zdeno Chara hit David Pastrnak in front. The puck bounced in front of Anderson, flipped over him, and landed in the net. It was definitely a surprise goal.
Shortly afterward, Jimmy Hayes would slash Cody Ceci's stick out of his hands in the Sens' zone, sending Ottawa right back to the powerplay. The best chance of the PP came shorthanded for the Bruins, with Max Talbot electing to shoot on a two-on-one but missing high. Ottawa's best chance came as the penalty expired, when the rebound off a Patrick Wiercioch slapshot stayed in the zone and caused mass confusion. But Ottawa couldn't poke it home, and not much later Ryan Spooner would get a breakaway but couldn't quite get a handle on the puck before Andy stopped it. After a slow first period, the second was taking on a frenetic pace.
The Sens would then have the bulk of the chances. Shane Prince rang one hard off the crossbar, and not long after Mike Hoffman found Michalek with a great pass that Rask had to be sharp to stop. Late in the period, Fredrik Claesson would take an interference penalty which sent the Bruins to their first powerplay of the night. Ottawa would effectively kill it, the highlight being Karlsson blocking a shot, skating up ice with the puck, and then skating around in the offensive zone while the rest of the Sens changed.
Ottawa would end the period forcing the Bs to ice the puck several times, but they couldn't get any great chances and Rask stopped everything that came his way. Shots in the period were 11-9 Boston, so Ottawa had still managed to keep things close, and overall had the better chances of the period.
The third period started out a lot like the first - not a lot of chances for either team. Most of the play seemed to be in the neutral zone, with either team skating the puck up only to lose possession and head back on defence. Ottawa would start to pick up their play for a bit, and for long stretches had the run of play. You'd be forgiven if you'd just turned in for thinking Ottawa was down a goal and was throwing everything up the ice.
Some miscommunication between Karlsson and Zibanejad deep in the Sens zone led to the puck going right out in front for a great Bruins scoring chance. Matt Beleskey would then cross-check Karlsson into Anderson, who proceeded to slash Beleskey in retaliation. That would lead to offsetting penalties, setting up four-on-four with Ottawa missing their best four-on-four player.
Ottawa would get a last stretch of chances in the third, but just couldn't score. Torey Krug would take out Bobby Ryan near the end boards, leading to Ryan smashing his hand and face into the glass. He would go down immediately and labour for a while before hobbling off the ice holding his hand. For a guy that missed time before Christmas with a hand injury, it didn't look good. The game would go to overtime, thanks mainly to the heroics of the goaltenders. Ottawa got some good news with Ryan returning to the bench just before OT started, and he even played a shift with Prince.
3-on-3 OT would not disappoint, opening pretty early with Anderson stopping Loui Eriksson on a clean breakaway. The Bruins' pressure would force Karlsson into playing the first 2:38 of overtime (I'm not kidding - check out the official time on ice report). Ottawa would manage to get the change, though not without Eriksson getting another chance on a two-on-one that he rang hard off the post. With under a minute to play, Karlsson took a point shot that led to a rebound falling to Mark Stone. Stone wrapped the puck around, but Rask made a gorgeous sprawling save. Unfortunately for Rask, Stone got the puck again and managed to just tuck it into the top far corner of the net for the game-winner. Ottawa won a thriller 2-1 in OT.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
I don't often pick the captain because he's so consistently good, but tonight he was near his best. He finished with 32:57 on ice, seven shots, four blocks, two primary assists, and 62.5% of the even-strength shot attempts. Ottawa lives and dies with EK, and tonight he led them to victory.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Andy put up a .971 tonight. The only goal that beat him was a complete fluke of a goal that Pastrnak wouldn't hit the net on most of the time. On most nights where the Sens get 40 shots they wouldn't need their goalie to be stellar, but tonight Andy did his part to let the team win. He was particularly important in stopping an Eriksson breakaway in OT.
Sens Killer: Tuukka Rask
The reason Andy had to be so great was because Rask was stellar. The Sens could hardly get anything by him all night. He even stopped Stone's initial shot on the eventual game-winner, a save that 95% of goalies in the league wouldn't make. He is one of the best in the league, and after a slow start, is showing it.
Sens Hero: Discipline
I fully expected Ottawa to lose its cool at some point in this game. Instead, they focused on playing good hockey and outshot and outworked the Bruins en route to victory. Not taking dumb retaliatory penalties definitely helped the cause.
Honourable Mention: The bottom six
It's taken a long time, but I think Ottawa's bottom six is rounding into form. Any guesses who in the bottom six finished below 50% in even-strength shot attempts? Nobody. That's who. Chris Neil and Max McCormick were each at 50%, and everyone else was above that. It says wonders that Dave Cameron trusted the Pageau line to start the third, and it means a lot that they ended their shift in the offensive zone. That's what you want a bottom-six line to do: end in the offensive zone so your scoring lines can score. If Ottawa continues to get games like this from this group, the rest of the season is looking up.
Game Flow (via Natural Stat Trick):
Shot Chart (via ESPN):