This game was about as meaningless as they come late in the season. The Senators had been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a week, while the Penguins were officially in and were nearly guaranteed to play in the 2/3 series of the Atlantic Division. Not to mention the Sens were playing six players who made their NHL debut this season, and two more players who started this year in the AHL. You could hardly have been surprised if the game wasn't exciting.
The first period wasn't very exciting in my opinion. It did open with Bobby Ryan getting injured on the first shift of the game after Fredrik Claesson hit Patric Hornqvist into his legs. Ryan would play a couple more shifts, but would decide to shut it down for the rest of the game, which led to interesting line combinations the rest of the way. Thankfully, the period also brought another point for Erik Karlsson, giving him 80 points, the first time a defenceman finished with 80 since Nicklas Lidstrom. Karlsson's attempted slap-pass hit Patric Hornqvist's skate and deflected into the net. It was also Karlsson's 100th career goal. Mika Zibanejad got the secondary assist, giving him 30 assists for the first time in his young career.
The second period saw things open up some more. First, Mike Hoffman buried one from a sharp angle. The commentators thought Matt Murray should've stopped it, but Hoffman has one of the quickest releases in the league, and he looked pass before snapping it into the only hole he was given. Ben Harpur assisted on the goal, giving him his first career NHL point. Just over a minute later, Fredrik Claesson showed some of the reason I think he should be with the NHL team next year. He intercepted a cross-crease pass to Crosby, stopping a near-sure goal. Rather than just flipping it out of the zone, he backhanded it off the boards to Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He passed it up to birthday boy Zack Smith who fired home his 23rd of the year. That play gave Claesson his first NHL point.
Buddy Robinson, in his first career NHL game, decided to take a late run at Justin Schultz so he could also get on the scoresheet with his first career penalty. The Pens made him pay for it, with Patric Hornqvist fighting off a weak check from Zibanejad behind the net, then cutting between Michael Kostka and the net to stuff a couple of shots on goal, the second of which flipped over Andrew Hammond's pad and into the net. It wasn't technically a powerplay goal, but Robinson hadn't made it back from the box to defend yet when the penalty ended. Robinson would take another penalty shortly thereafter, though he mostly got unlucky trying to corral Hornqvist and instead tripping him. The Sens would manage to kill that penalty and the few remaining seconds though. Later in the period, Karlsson blocked a shot right in front of the net to Sidney Crosby who backhanded home his 34th of the year, cutting the lead to one. That's how the period ended, but with the Pens buzzing.
The Sens had a few glorious chances to seal it in the third. Alex Chiasson had a gaping cage with Murray out of position, but Kris Letang batted the puck away on the goal line. Ottawa would get an extended 5-on-3 when Oskar Sundqvist high-sticked Zibanejad, and then on the PK Eric Fehr decided to elbow Cody Ceci in the head right in front of the ref in the Sens' zone. Hoffman would ring it off the post twice, but the Sens couldn't score. The Pens actually tied the game before that powerplay, with Carl Hagelin picking up his own rebound. It wasn't long after the extended powerplay that it all unravelled, with Karlsson misfiring on a D-to-D pass, instead giving it to Nick Bonino at the point. He set up Hagelin for what would stand as the game-winner. The Sens would push late, but Crosby sealed it by hitting the empty net with seven seconds left. Final score: 5-3 for the bad guys.
Sens Heroes: Mika Zibanejad and Mike Hoffman
The Senators had 30 shots on goal on the night. Exactly half belonged to those two (8 for Zibanejad and 7 for Hoffman). Both were looking dangerous all night. Both will have to wait another game to hit goal milestones this season, but another game like this one should guarantee them 20 and 30 goals respectively.
Flip-Flop Award: Erik Karlsson
I had him wrapped up as the third hero at the end of the second, when he was right up there with Zibanejad and Hoffman in attempts. Then he spent the third giving the puck up at inopportune moments, to the tune of ending up on the ice for every goal against in the game. But hey, 80 points is nice!
I Feel Bad For You: Buddy Robinson
Poor guy. Tries to make his mark when he gets called up, and ends up being called for a borderline late hit when he's just trying to finish his check. I doubt Chris Neil would get called for that penalty. Then his very next shift (other than the goal being scored as he exited the box) he takes another unlucky penalty. He played a total of 1:08 after, including just 39 seconds in the third period. Here's hoping he gets another NHL shot, because it would be too bad to bench him after what was a pretty unlucky start to his NHL career.
Sens Killer: The Post
How differently could this game have gone if Hoffman had given his team the lead with 10 minutes remaining?