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Ottawa Senators' Playoff Hopes Take a Hit with 5-3 Loss to the Vancouver Canucks

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On the bright side, bubble teams Carolina and New Jersey both lost their games as well.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators came into their late game against the Vancouver Canucks knowing that the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets had done their parts on the night, beating the Hurricanes and Devils respectively. Unfortunately, the Sens couldn't beat a rather poor Canucks team, remaining four points out of a playoff spot (though the Penguins have three games in hand).

If you'd expected a slow start to the game , you would've been forgiven. You also would've been wrong. Before the 10-minute mark, each team had a goal. Emerson Etem scored the game-opener for the home team, burying a juicy rebound in front of Craig Anderson. Mike Hoffman would reply with a tip-in from the slot just as a Sens powerplay expired. The play would have to be reviewed, but evidence was inconclusive so the call on the ice stood. The Vancouver commentators were very confused because the ref had originally waved the goal off, then changed to signalling goal when he saw the puck in the net. I'm assuming he thought the puck had hit the crossbar initially, but the commentators couldn't figure it out and ranted about it for at least the next four minutes of the game.

Vancouver had some good pressure in the period, but the puck trickled wide of the net at least three times. Late in the period, Erik Karlsson took a slashing penalty. On the PK, Zack Smith set up Mark Stone for a wide-open breakaway, but he was stopped by Ryan Miller. The puck was then under Miller's pad in the crease, so Stone poked it home, but the refs immediately blew it off for reasons. Naturally, the clowns running the Vancouver commentating booth complained for the rest of the period about Stone taking liberties with the goalie (by poking at loose puck) and about the Canucks not getting angry enough with Stone afterward.

The third period saw both teams come out guns a-blazin'. Daniel Sedin got a great look on the powerplay, then Stone hit the post shorthanded, then Craig Anderson had to flop down and kick the puck out of his crease, and then Bobby Ryan had a fantastic chance to score with Miller flopping but his backhand hit a stick in front, then hit various parts of Miller and somehow stayed out. Curtis Lazar would draw a penalty, and early in the PP Zack Smith had a glorious chance in front that again Miller managed to save. After killing the penalty, the Sedins had a couple of chances one one-timers from the middle of the slot, but Andy turned those aside. The score probably should've been 4-4 by that point, but the goalies kept the period scoreless.

And really, it continued from there. At some point, I lost track of all the scoring chances. Finally, the end-to-end action was interrupted by an old-school hit by Dion Phaneuf that dropped Derek Dorsett, leading to some on-ice skirmishing. The Nucks got the powerplay out of the pushing, but Mark Stone would get his third shorthanded scoring chance of the period, racing in two-on-one with Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Stone elected to shoot at there was no doubt this time as he bit Miller far side. Naturally, the most excited person was Stone.

However, the lead was short-lived, as Matt Bartkowski scored on a screened shot from the point just after the same powerplay. Just a quickly as the Sens had taken the lead, they were back tied. Phaneuf and Jake Virtanen would take coincidental minors, sending the teams to two minutes of four-on-four. With the extra space, Marc Methot made a surprising set of moves to get around Etem and Alex Biega before hitting Ryan with a pass in front who scored easily. That lead would stand until the end of the period, allowing the Sens to hit the dressing room up 3-2.

Some poor coverage by the Sens early in the third allowed the Canucks to maintain the zone. Phaneuf tried and failed to put it out off the glass, the puck got to a wide-open Bartkowski, and he buried his second of the game. Dave Cameron and his staff would challenge for offside, but no angles were available which showed the offending player and the puck in the same frame. After about an hour and a half of deliberation, the original call was maintained.

Moments later, new-Nuck Markus Granlund got a breakaway but Anderson managed to trap it in his equipment and not lose it. The Canucks would continue to turn up the heat, outshooting the Sens 10-2 in the period before Smith took a high-sticking call that straddled the 10-minute mark. With 10 seconds left in the penalty, Bo Horvat and Virtanen did an awkward give-and-go that led to a goal, and the Sens found themselves behind for the first time since early in the first.

With 3:30 left, Mika Zibanejad had a glorious chance off a poor exit by the Canucks, but he rang it hard off the crossbar instead. Vancouver would end up having to ice the puck, giving the Sens another offensive zone draw. Ottawa would pull Anderson twice in the final three minutes (putting him back in for a faceoff), but Etem would eventually ice the game with an empty-netter. Ottawa messed up on three or four passes seemingly in a row to allow that chance to Vancouver. That would end the scoring for the game. Final score: 5-3 for the Canucks.

Sens Hero: Mark Stone

Hands-o'-Stone had a great night, but sadly no one could really help him out. He was taking the puck away, generating scoring chances, hitting posts, making key passes, and high-fiving fans through the glass. He's still on pace for 61 points this season, which would be just fine by my standards.

Sens Zero: Alex Chiasson

I think the team is still showcasing him for a trade, but games like this won't help. It would be nice if he could receive a single tape-to-tape pass cleanly.

Up-and Down Award: Dion Phaneuf

Two points: good. Continually getting into dumb skirmishes with Jake Virtanen: bad. Here's hoping he doesn't devolve into an easily-angered liability on the blue line, because those assists are necessary.

Sens Killer: Ryan Miller

How many grade-A chances did he stop on the night? This would've been a very different game if Miller had been off his.

Karlsson point watch: With 0 points in two games, Karlsson is falling off the pace set by Benn and Seguin. He's only three up on Evgeny Kuznetsov (who has two games in hand). Hopefully the team can do their part and shut out sixth-place Johnny Gaudreau on Saturday. And you know, get EK a couple points.

Final verdict: Ottawa's done this a few times this season -- held their own for two periods, disappeared in the third, and then poured it all on in the dying minutes. This team can't let a team as bad as the Canucks get 36 shots in a game. They can't afford to waste a late-game powerplay because Karlsson is the only one who can gain the offensive zone. This game seemed to be a microcosm of the Sens' season: flashes of skill, but allowed the other team too much space, and tried to pour on the pressure too late.

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