I’m going to be honest: I didn’t give Ottawa much of a chance coming in to tonight. There were a lot of factors against them: playing the same goaltender on the second-half of a back-to-back, versus a high-pace, high-scoring Rangers team, with a number of players reportedly battling injuries.
However, despite losing the shot battle for the second straight night (33 - 20), the Sens kept the Rangers in-check for most of the game. They finished with ~46% of the shot attempts and held the blueshirts to 10 scoring chances at 5-on-5.
The Sens started strong as the sharper of the two teams, rushing out to 4-2 lead in shots and getting a couple of scoring chances off the sticks of Erik Karlsson and Tom Pyatt. However, the Rangers ‘won’ the period with their latter half — finding their mojo and setting up in the Senators zone with relative consistency. They were emboldened after two strong powerplays where Michael Grabner and Rick Nash just missed tap-ins for goals.
Much like the first, the Sens started the second strong and this time, they got rewarded for it. You can see the goal pretty clearly in the two frames below. First, Zack Smith picks off a failed Rangers zone exit at the left side boards and gets the puck to Tom Pyatt behind the net (his favourite spot).
At this point, you can see Pageau skating through the slot but checked by both a Rangers forward and Kevin Klein on D. However, as both Klein and the forward collapse on Pyatt, the ex-Rags forward manages to hit the now open Pageau with a quick pass.
#44 doesn’t waste any time potting the one-timer past Antti Raanta — who was in net tonight to give Henrik Lundqvist a rest.
The bulk of the second period was mostly played to an even standstill, with neither team not generating much at 5-on-5 in terms of shots towards the net. Given both the back-to-back and the fact that the Rangers are a high-pace team, the fact that the Rangers were offensively challenged in the period is a ‘win’ for the Senators as it means that they were forcing the Rags to play ‘their way’. The team did take two more penalties, with Dion Phaneuf and Zack Smith taking slashing penalties, but the Erik Karlsson-led Sens group managed to kill both off.
In fact, it was the Sens (!) who scored the lone powerplay goal of the game. With the Sens having trouble setting up, the Rangers got unlucky and had their attempted clear hit the back of the referee, leaving Mike Hoffman to pick up the loose puck. Instead of sending it low to Kyle Turris along the left half-boards, Hoffman draws two Rangers PKers in and slides the puck to Mark Stone in the left slot, who goes short side past Raanta to give the Sens a 2 - 0 lead.
Although I’d say that, as a whole, the Sens PP unit struggled again tonight -- there’s a part of me hoping that lucky bounces such as this one will give the group some added confidence that they can build off of next time they’re out there. With 5 goals in his last nine games, it’s safe to say that Mark Stone is fully healed and playing like his old self after missing most of training camp and being on the receiving end of some hard bumps and bruises in October.
In the third, the Senators got a bit away from their gameplan and played the Rangers at a much higher pace than they did the rest of the game. This is evident in the shot attempt numbers, as the 43 overall in the third only a little less than half of the 91 the game had in total. When the play picked up, Hoffman - Brassard - Stone were able to keep up and dictate play while on the flipside, the fourth line of Lazar - Kelly - Neil struggled mightily. At different points of the period, Marc Methot, Mark Borowiecki, and Chris Wideman all prevented tap-in goals by the Rangers either through a blocked shot, pass, or a goal-line clear. By now, the Sens collapsing to the middle of the ice to prevent chances in close is something we’re used to and it was certainly evident tonight.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
When your goalie stops 64 of the 65 shots he faced this weekend and has the confidence to go for an empty net goal, you bet that he’s a hero. If you’re down to wait for the advertisement, his three best saves can be found below:
In his pre-game interview, Boucher noted that he wasn’t sure he was going to play Anderson tonight, but decided to go with him after the ‘tender said he still had a lot of energy. Of interest was the nugget that Anderson will likely be going on leave for a ‘couple of games’ shortly, meaning that Andrew Hammond will find himself back with the Senators soon. It’s going to be hard for him to leave after winning four straight.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick
The Sens return to action for their last November game on Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres. After going 1-1 against them this month, the Sens will be looking to put a few past Robin Lehner back at the Canadian Tire Centre.