Mike Hoffman probably wishes his first career hat-trick came under better circumstances. The Hoff was on fire, but it wasn’t quite enough to overcome the Sabres in a 5-4 loss. Being on a four-game win streak, the Senators were due for a stinker. Craig Anderson looked human, and their dominant powerplay allowed three goals on five chances. It was ugly, but even the best teams have ugly games every now and then.
Things didn’t start out great for Ottawa. Derick Brassard took a high-sticking penalty six minutes in, and the Sabres needed seven seconds to score on that powerplay. Cody Ceci did a good job of tying up Sam Reinhart in front, but it meant the pass intended for Reinhart hit Ceci’s skate and went into a wide-open cage. Mark Borowiecki would get called for hooking two minutes later, and this time it took them more than a minute to score on the powerplay. Jack Eichel showed why he’s been missed so much, firing home a one-timer than Anderson was genuinely surprised to see beat him. Hoffman gave Ottawa a ray of hope, scoring a rebound goal against Robin Lehner. But 31 seconds later, Ryan O’Reilly fired home a backhander (while missing his helmet), and restored the two-goal lead.
Apparently Lehner knew this game would get out of hand. He’d never allowed more than two goals to the Sens in his career, so with a couple minutes left in the first period, he left with a hip injury to maintain that stat. Anders Nilsson would come in and be good enough to win. Bobby Ryan also presumably re-aggravated his hand injury in the first period, and left with only 2:50 played. Boucher has since announced he won’t play next game.
The second period would see the injury troubles get worse for the Sens. Marc Methot left after blocking a shot, and wouldn’t return. He was listed as day-to-day after the game, so he might be in the lineup next game. The period would also see the Sens bring back within one twice, first via a Mark Stone goal, and then Hoffman’s second after Reinhart had scored. Somehow outshooting the Sabres 17-4 wasn’t quite enough.
The third period would see a more even run of play. Likely Dan Bylsma was not impressed by his team trying to just hold on to the lead for 40 minutes. But with just four minutes left in the game, captain Karlsson would get called for interference. Already short Methot, another defenceman in the box made everything worse for Ottawa. And sure enough, O’Reilly got his second of the game. But Ottawa would get another powerplay (a makeup call?) just moments later, and Dion Phaneuf kept teeing up Hoffman until finally he hit the net. It brought the Sens back within one for one last effort, but they couldn’t get the tying goal. At least now next game won’t have the pressure of trying to preserve a winning streak.
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
No surprise here. Hoffman finished with three goals and an assist, and his shot was looking lethal all night. Hard to believe it was his first career hat-trick.
Dishonourable Mention: Offsides
Anyone else see the Sens go offside 22 times in the first period?
Dishonourable Mention: Slap passes
Early in the game, Hoffman got a great chance by redirecting a slap pass from Chris Wideman. After that, the Sens seemed to try the slap pass every 35 seconds. It turned into icings, turnovers, and glorious chances to score passed over. This is the first game all season I can remember players repeatedly passing up shooting chances to slap pass it to nobody, and it was infuriating.
Sens Zero: Penalty kill
They’ve been so good for so long, so it’s hard to criticize too much. But they just couldn’t get it figured out tonight, and the Sabres roasted them for it. Hopefully it was just a one-game aberration. And hopefully Methot isn’t out for long.
Sens Killers: Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly
They finished with two and three points respectively, and were the main reasons the Sabres’ powerplay was so deadly. Eichel in particular really showed why he’s been billed as a franchise player since he was 16.