The Senators have been playing really well lately, with the lone blip in recent memory a 3-1 loss to the Predators nine days ago. The Sens set out tonight to avenge that loss, but ended up faring even worse in a 5-1 loss.
The Preds opened the scoring with Colton Sissons finding Austin Watson, then heading to the front of the net unnoticed and tipping in Watson’s pass while standing beside a surprised Marc Methot. The goal itself was a very nice tip, though it did seem the Sens fell asleep a little bit on defence.
Ottawa would catch a break when Mike Fisher took a double-minor for high-sticking, giving their anemic powerplay four minutes to work with. It took almost three of those minutes, but they managed to score. Derick Brassard faked a pass from the circle, then snapped it in before Pekka Rinne had noticed. Gord Miller asked who needed that goal more - the Sens, their powerplay, or Brassard. It was a good question, but I’m glad all three benefited.
Unfortunately, Ottawa couldn’t make it out of the period tied. The Preds got the cycle going, and Mike Ribeiro managed to find the wide-open Ryan Ellis at the point. He ripped home a slapshot, and gave Nashville a 2-1 lead to end the first. The final shots were 17-7 for the Preds, which was pretty impressive considering Ottawa had the only powerplays of the period. The good news was the Sens had never been outshot for long in Guy Boucher’s system, and so most figured the team would get that number back.
There was a scary moment in the first for Sens equipment manager John Forget when he got hit over the eye with a puck. He needed stitches, but was back and all smiles to start the second. More noteworthy, Bobby Ryan took the puck to his hand on the Sens’ powerplay. He went to the dressing room, returned, left again, and then announced he would not return for the rest of the game. With Mike Hoffman already out, losing the team’s other sniper was a big blow for Ottawa.
Turns out I was wrong. Nashville came out firing in the second and all Ottawa could do was hold on. The lone bright spot was Ottawa’s penalty kill which had to step up twice. Ottawa had the worst powerplay I’ve seen in a long time, in which they got no shots, and Nashville had about four. It even ended with Mark Stone taking a slashing penalty.
With about eight minutes left, Ottawa finally got some extended zone time. Credit where credit is due, the fourth line did a great job of working the puck around and causing mayhem for Karlsson and Methot to work with. That shift also featured the highlight of the game - Erik Karlsson leaping to glove down the puck and re-enter the Nashville zone after a high clear.
The second highlight came just moments later, with Ryan Johansen sprung on a mini-breakaway. Condon came up strong with a save on Johansen’s initial shot and rebound, and then holding the fort when James Neal came in to take whacks. The Sens took exception, and Chris Wideman of all people pushed Neal away from the net. Zack Smith ended up with the extra penalty from the scrum, but the Preds felt bad because they took a penalty eight seconds into their powerplay. With the period winding down, an uncovered pinch by Wideman set Nashville on a two-on-one, and Pontus Aberg fired home his first career goal. As it turned out, Smith had actually got the upper hand in that earlier scrum, because Neal lost his temper and threw Smith to the ice late in the period, giving the Sens a powerplay minus twenty seconds to open the third.
I was hopeful entering the third, but that hope was dashed. To end things quickly: Nashville got two more goals. The first was on a beautiful cross-crease feed by P.K. Subban to James Neal who wasn’t going to miss an empty net, even if it was such a sharp angle. The second came when Mike Ribeiro somehow got a breakaway just as an Ottawa penalty was wrapping up, and fired home a blistering slapshot. And that did it for a game that the Sens never quite seemed ready for, one in which they were outshot 40-31, but at one point were down 26-9.
Honourable Mention: Derick Brassard
No heroes in such a lopsided loss, but Brassard gets noted for his goal, and for the confidence it inspired in him afterward. If Hoffman and/or Ryan are out long term, the Sens will need Brassard to remember his scoring touch.
Honourable Mention: Mark Borowiecki
I thought Boro looked good tonight a few times, at least when the game was still in reach, pinching at the right times, pressuring guys with the puck. He even took the puck from Subban at one point, which is no small feat.
Sens Zero: Puck possession
I don’t know what happened tonight, but the Sens fell asleep for 25 minutes spanning the first and second periods. At one point, the shots were tied 6-6. Then somehow Nashville got 20 of the next 23 shots in the game, and Ottawa looked like they were a major junior team. It wasn’t pretty. The thing is, even the best teams have games where they look lost (Pittsburgh losing 7-1, anyone?), so I can’t conclude from this game that the Sens are terrible. That being said, it was a little worrisome.