While the Senators were in Los Angeles for their 28th game of the season, Chris Neil stepped onto the ice for the 1000th time in his career. A feat few have accomplished in the many years of the NHL, it was more than a special day for Neil, his family and the organization.
The first period, however, was nothing to honour.
Two minutes into the game, Mark Borowiecki barged in from the point and hit a vulnerable Tyler Toffoli from behind, garnering a five-minute major and a heck of a lot of attention from the Kings.
Though they boasted the league’s fifth best penalty kill going into Saturday afternoon, the Senators would give up two whilst a man down. First, Dion Phaneuf made a horrific play in his own zone, bobbling the puck and allowing Jeff Carter to go in all alone, which ultimately ended in Carter chipping one over Mike Condon’s glove. And second, Alec Martinez blasted a point shot that Condon stopped with his blocker, but the puck continued on into the air and over the 26-year-old’s head, off his back and into the net.
Borowiecki would finally walk out of the penalty box at the 12-minute mark, but he wouldn’t stay in the play very long as he would have to answer the bell the next play against Matt Greene. The two engaged in quite the spirited bout, Borowiecki getting the better of Greene, but nonentheless, the Senators defenseman was back in the box.
And it was only fitting that Neil joined him shortly after.
The feistiness had certainly picked up after Borowiecki’s hit and fight, and Jordan Nolan looked to continue the tone of the game with a thunderous and clean hit on Bobby Ryan deep in the Senators’ end. But like anytime anyone throws a big, clean hit in the NHL nowadays, they must answer the bell, for some reason.
Neil skated across the fight, demanded that Nolan drops his gloves, and away they went. Neil would end up winning rather handedly, seeing as Nolan didn’t look that into it. After, the 37-year-old winger gazed over to his team’s bench and motioned for them to get going.
In the second frame, they did.
Two minutes in, Zack Smith batted a puck out of the air at the Kings’ blue line right on the the stick of Tom Pyatt, who picked it up, drove wide, and found Smith driving the net. The Senators were within one.
Smith had his fourth of the year.
Ottawa absolutely dominated the play for the rest of the period. Well, for nearly the rest of the period.
About to go into the intermission with momentum and a 17-12 lead in the shot category, the Senators were in a great position. Until Trevor Lewis found a loose puck in the slot and buried it past the outstretched glove of Condon with 1.8 seconds left.
During a break later on, Ray Ferraro and the TSN crew pointed out that the clock had started six seconds late in the second period. The timekeepers had only taken off four seconds during the next break, two fewer than they should’ve.
The back-breaker to end all back-breakers.
The Senators had work to do. And they wouldn’t be short of opportunities in the final frame.
The Kings took two minor penalties in the early stages, but the Senators were unable to capitalize. The Kings would add another goal to make it 4-1 on the only penalty the Senators would take in the third period.
An emotionally draining game that could’ve turned out a whole lot differently.
Sens Hero: Chris Neil
Regardless of how he played, today was an opportunity for the fanbase, league and organization to say thanks to the third player in Senators franchise history to reach the 1000 game mark. So many memorable moments have been produced by his fists and stick; he truly does have his very own spot in the hearts of Sens fans.
Sens Zero: Mark Borowiecki
Mark Borowiecki started the season off ever so strong. His possession numbers were outstanding, his decision making skills had improved and he was flourishing under Guy Boucher’s defensively centred system. But ever since the Senators started to score more and Boucher began to allow the team to be a bit more creative in all zones, Borowiecki has strayed away from that conservative style that benefitted him so greatly in the first month or so of the season. He’s jumping in far too often, overcommitting like last season and it’s showing on the ice and on the stat sheet. Ottawa needs their tough, passionate, depth defenseman to be much better.
Sens Killer: A Lackluster Power Play & Penalty Kill
Before today, the Senators’ special teams were both trending up in a big way. The power play, though abysmal in the first month or so of the season, had done a giant 180 degree turn and 16th at 16.7%. The penalty kill was top five in the entire league and one of the big reasons the team was second in their division with a rather unfavourable goal differential.
That was not the case today, though. The Senators went 0-for-4 on the power play and 1-for-4 on the penalty kill. In the end, special teams won the game for the Kings.