It’s Guy Boucher’s world - we’re all just living in it. Many - including myself - were wondering how the team would play tonight. Despite two convincing wins earlier this week, the Sens lost to the Leafs last Saturday and were feeling blue after getting the news that Clarke MacArthur would be out for the rest of the year. What happened? The team showed their character and tied the game in the last two minutes of the third before winning in the shootout.
The first started off slowly, with 11 whistles in the first 8 minutes and the team going 0/2 on two first-period Nikita Zaitsev penalties. When the pace picked up, it was Chris Neil (!) who made the key offensive play. On the ice with Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan, #25 entered the zone wide on the left side but was bottled nicely by Jake Gardiner. However, instead of giving up on the play, Neil stuck with the puck and cycled it back to Marc Methot — who then wired it on net just as Ryan and Turris are flying by. Bobby managed to get a stick on it for the first goal of the game, and Neil’s first point in his last 29 (!).
On the shift after the goal, Methot — who had a big impact on the game tonight at EV and the PK — took an interference penalty wherein the Leafs generated a number of chances. They play an extremely fast 1-3-1, but Mike Condon was up to the task.
The second period was dismal for the Senators, as the Leafs not only outshot them 15-4, but tied the game up. With Dion Phaneuf off for slashing after Zach Hyman turned him around in transition, the Leafs PP cashed in on a perfect Tyler Bozak shot. When you see the goal, your immediate reaction may be to blame Methot for not getting the puck out, but with the Ottawa native smothered by three Leafs forwards down low, it’s only natural for him to turn it over.
With the game tied, the Leafs kept pushing. I wouldn’t say that the team’s structure ever faltered — the Leafs only had 4 high-danger scoring chances in the period — but instead, I would say that the Sens were ineffective offensively. They don’t seem to make one big mistake but instead, start to make a lot of little ones. It starts with things like Condon rimming the puck around the boards to no one, or a failed zone exit after giving the puck up without control. These little things then lead to getting hemmed in by the Hyman - Matthews - Brown line, or breakdowns in transition — especially by Phaneuf - Ceci who were a mess down low tonight — which are bigger worries.
The Leafs end up taking the lead on one of those little plays — a bobble of the puck after a hard dump in and an inability to clear Matt Martin in front of the net, 7 minutes into the third period. It’s a soft goal on Condon, who faced 33 shots on the night, but one that’s allowable given the number of strong stops he made all night.
It’s at this point where the team starts to wake up and take advantage of a Leafs squad who went into “defend the lead” mode, with Wideman, Stone, Hoffman, and Turris all getting prime chances on Fredrik Andersen. All-in-all, the Sens won the high-danger scoring chance battle 7-6 tonight at 5-on-5, but it was a dormant powerplay that finally cashed in to tie the game. Facing the league’s fourth ranked PK squad on their fourth powerplay attempt, Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman connect on a shot that squeaks through Andersen’s five hole. The Leafs end up challenging the play — claiming Bobby Ryan interfered with Andersen — but it’s clear on the replay that Ryan’s screen was picture perfect.
Overtime was choppy, with defenders Karlsson and Wideman getting the best chances for Ottawa while Kadri and Matthews had a pair of chances on Condon. The shootout was a different story, though, with Condon absolutely robbing Matthews on his first attempt while Ryan and Pyatt (!) scored for the Senators to win in the fourth round.
Sens Hero: Mike Condon
I don’t know how he keeps doing it, but Condon was fantastic again tonight. Looking at the heatmap for tonight shows that Leafs got to the front of the net more than the Senators, but despite the one softie on Martin, Condon stood tall. Nylander and Hyman were both robbed on sure goals in the second and third periods, and the shootout save on Matthews was a thing of beauty. With the team playing at 5:00pm tomorrow, I hope Condon gets a well-deserved rest.
Sens Killer: Zach Hyman
Every time we play the Leafs, a different thorn appears. Tonight, it was Hyman, who was a pest all night around the net on his way to a strong night in terms of the shot metrics. Hyman was also a big part of the Leafs PK who were aggressive on the Sens all night.
Erik Karlsson moment: just because
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick