With a disappointing season winding down, I sometimes find it hard to watch Senators games. It's difficult watching your team taking on a team with a brighter future or a team who's going to make the playoffs this year.
This game was not one of those games. I think we'd all be enjoying this Montreal Canadiens season a lot more if the Sens were having a good year. This was a team that was expected to compete for the Stanley Cup. They had the best start to the season in their storied history. Even when Carey Price went down, their backup held his own. For a few games. And then everything fell apart. With a younger core, a better star defenceman, and a less disappointing season, I'm much happier being a Sens fan than a Habs fan this year.
The first period was exciting for Sens fans, in that the team actually outshot an opponent. The even opened the scoring in the most Sens-Habs way possible: a shorthanded goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Mark Stone intercepted the puck in his own zone, and rather than just icing it, raced up. Pageau outraced Tomas Plekanec to the front of the net and put home a beauty pass, giving him six shorthanded goals on the season. If Pageau were a team, that would leave him tied for 10th in the league in shorties. Instead, he'll just have to settle for a two-goal lead atop the NHL shorthanded goal standings.
The second period seemed a little more even to me. The highlight in the first few minutes for me was the HNIC crew complaining that during Ottawa's miracle run, everything went their way. It was a pretty lazy narrative to me, considering that the Sens actually played lights-out hockey down the stretch. Nobody deserves to have the run the Sens did last season, but they weren't getting lucky like how the team was getting lucky earlier this season. Also I doubt any of Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, or Glenn Healy watched more than three games during the Sens' run last season. Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox.
Just in case you thought it couldn't get anymore Sens-Habs, the Sens scored their second shortie of the game after taking a too-many-men penalty. Dion Phaneuf chipped the puck out of the zone, and Curtis Lazar had his head up to see that if he hustled he'd get a breakaway. He made no mistake, racing in alone on Ben Scrivens, and the Sens had a 2-0 lead. Even better was that Jim Hughson had prefaced the powerplay by saying "another shorthanded opportunity for the Senators".
The third period opened up with the Sens' third goal of the night. In a bit of four-on-four, Cody Ceci just barely managed to stay onside, and then Marc Methot banked it in off Scrivens' leg from behind the net. After Montreal's penalty expired, Alex Chiasson skated in on a shorthanded breakaway and beat Ben Scrivens with a softie that floated through. Ottawa's three shorthanded goals on the night was more than the total of six NHL teams for the entire season (and was tied with five others' season total).
Ottawa would have a few more glorious chances to score in the third, but the bad luck started to creep in. Which really wasn't a big deal in a 4-0 game. The Sens did start to get sloppy as the period wore on. More Habs were going unmarked in the Sens' zone, and Andrew Hammond had to be sharp to keep it close. Ottawa would get another shorthanded chance, but Montreal would manage to survive it. The Sens would score right after though, with Mike Hoffman intercepting the puck and Mika Zibanejad tipping it home. Ottawa would get a couple more great chances with Scrivens sprawling, but couldn't get it past him. And that would do it, with the Sens waltzing to a dominant 5-0 victory.
Sens Hero: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
The legend against Montreal continues. Just a great night for the Sens' best PKer. I'm happy to see how well a Pageau-Stone combo has worked out, and I look forward to seeing them long-term.
Honourable Mention: Andrew Hammond
The Sens didn't need him to be amazing tonight, but a shutout still deserves recognition. He made some saves when necessary.
Honourable Mention: Mike Hoffman
He had some great looks tonight and just couldn't hit the net. Did manage to set up a sweet goal for Z-bad though.
Sens Zero: Nobody
Seriously, could anybody get complained about after a drubbing of the Habs?