Of late, the Ottawa Senators have succeeded on the back of a Hart-worthy performance from Erik Karlsson, as well as Vezina-worthy work from Craig Anderson. When you have some of the best players in the game at their respective positions, and those players are playing at the apex of their abilities, you are going to win more than your share of games. However, over the course of an 82 game season, a good team will occasionally need to win games it doesn’t necessarily deserve to win. A good team will also, every so often, require that a member of the supporting cast reach far beyond their abilities and star in a winning effort. Alas, tonight was not one of those wins as the Sens fell 2-1 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning. But this game would not have even reached overtime were it not for a goal from Tommy Wingels and a stellar performance from Mike Condon.
At the morning skate it was announced that Chris Driedger had been recalled from Binghamton and that Anderson would be missing time with an undisclosed injury. Condon played a crucial role in keeping the team afloat while Anderson was away earlier in the season, but his play also tailed off noticeably towards the end of his run as the defacto number one. Sens fans had every reason to be a bit more on edge than usual.
Nonetheless, the game started off well for the home side. Both teams seemed energized to start the first period and the up and down hockey was a fan’s dream. Ottawa piled on the shots in the frame, 14 in all, but it was Tampa Bay who found the opener just over seven minutes into the game when Brayden Point potted a rebound on an odd man rush past a helpless Condon.
The Sens had a few flashes of brilliance, including a wonderful setup from Mike Hoffman that Jean-Gabriel Pageau fanned on, but they could not find the equalizer before the first twenty minutes elapse.
It wasn’t long into the second period before the first supporting cast hero, Wingels, got one past Andrei Vasilevskiy with a perfectly placed slapshot from the top of the left face-off dot. Wingels had jumped onto the ice as part of a line change from something of a broken play to find the puck just sitting there waiting for him; he made no mistake.
Tampa Bay entered tonight’s game on the second of a back to back and at that precise moment in time, this had the looks of a game the Senators could take control of.
Momentum is funny like that, though: one minute you have it, and the next you don’t. Tampa would control the remainder of the second, and most of the third to be honest, at one point out-shooting Ottawa 23-7 (!) after the Wingels goal. This is when our supporting cast member the second, Condon, really shone.
I could try to describe to you some of the saves that he made to keep the game tied through the end of regulation, but really they would be just words. Words don’t do this type of thing justice:
Don’t mind me, I’m just fanning myself over here. My word.
At any rate, the Sens had a fantastic opportunity to win it at the end of regulation with a powerplay for the final two minutes. There were a couple of decent chances, but nothing that required Vasilevskiy to make any spectacular stops.
The Lightning threatened early in overtime, Jonathan Drouin pinged one off the post, and ended it late when Victor Hedman buried a 2 on 1 past a sprawling Condon and ahead of an exhausted Karlsson.
It was a game that felt like some of the others the Sens have “stolen” this season on the back of improbable performances from their supporting cast; they just came up a step short this time.
Sens Hero: Mike Condon
You saw the videos for yourselves, but Condon’s performance tonight was so much more than that. The Lightning were better tonight, plain and simple; Condon’s play was a great equalizer.
Sens Killer: Victor Hedman
Not only did he pot the overtime winner, but Hedman was a menace all night long. The big defenseman defused rush after rush and created a tonne of offensive chances himself. The Lightning’s defense isn’t as deep as it once was, but Victor Hedman’s presence alone makes them competent on the backend.