The Ottawa Senators have made a habit this year of closing out games once they’re ahead. Of all the ways that Guy Boucher has improved this team, their ability to hold onto the lead probably stands at the top of the heap. There have been times when holding onto the lead meant holding on for dear life, but by and large the Sens have been successful at getting full value for their leads. It was strange, then, to see Ottawa blow two separate leads and walk away with only a single point after they fell 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout.
In fact, the whole game felt strange -- like the Sens could never fully establish themselves. Part of that was perhaps the choppy flow of gameplay: the first period in particular was marred by penalties to both sides. Ottawa took the first two penalties of the game, first a hooking penalty on Erik Karlsson and then a tripping penalty to Mark Borowiecki, both of which seemed unnecessary. Only strong saves by Craig Anderson kept the Flyers at bay. Say what you will about Philadelphia’s crumbling season, but they remain menacing with the man advantage. Ottawa was a bit lucky to avoid any damage early on.
Soon thereafter, the Sens capitalized on a power play opportunity of their own. Mark Stone drew a second successive Flyers penalty to put Ottawa up two players and Karlsson quickly found the back of the net:
Alas, the Sens gave the Flyers yet another man advantage opportunity before the period was over and Brayden Schenn equalized with a deflection. The first twenty was capped by Radko Gudas and Borowiecki punching each other in the face and then falling awkwardly to the ice. It might have been a metaphor for this game, who’s to say?
The second period was something of a sleepy affair that the Flyers controlled for the first half, while the Sens owned the latter part of the frame. Nonetheless, neither team seemed especially likely to break the tie despite a few scattered chances here and there. Perhaps the most interesting development was Ryan Dzingel re-joining the top 6 at the expense of Alexandre Burrows. Burrows has struggled since first bursting onto the scene with the club, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before Dzingel found his way back to Kyle Turris’ left. After two periods, the game remained tied at one.
If the Sens had been playing in fits and starts in the first two periods, they never really got started at all in the third. After a brief power play near the start of the frame, Ottawa spent most of the rest of the twenty minutes on their heels in their own end. Anderson again produced several five star saves to keep Philadephia at bay.
It was against the run of play that Turris gave the Sens their second lead of the game, one-timing a beautiful feed from Cody Ceci:
Ceci has, deservedly in this writer’s opinion, borne the brunt of a lot of criticism around these parts but it’s these types of plays that have Sens’ management always holding out for more from the big defender.
At this stage, the script felt familiar enough: Sens play just well enough to hang around, score a late goal and hold on for the two points. Except this time, Anderson undid some of his good work with a brutal giveaway that allowed the Flyers to equalize just ninety seconds later:
From there, both teams seemed content enough to play for overtime and off to extra time we went. Curiously, Karlsson played only one shift in overtime. As of this writing, it’s unclear whether the captain was injured or simply passed over.
The Sens’ best chance came from a Turris solo effort that rang off the post behind Steve Mason. Otherwise, Philadelphia mostly controlled the play but no one could beat the keepers and a shootout was needed.
In the skills competition Jordan Weal beat Craig Anderson five hole and all three Senators shooters were stopped by Mason. Perhaps controversially, Guy Boucher elected to have Tom Pyatt take the third shot after Turris and Bobby Ryan had already missed. Combined with Karlsson’s curious lack of ice time in overtime, these two coaching choices will probably be the subject of more conversation for the next news cycle than the otherwise mostly uneventful game. The Sens inched closer to the play-offs, but with seven games remaining they’ll need to find a better form than they displayed tonight if they want to make some noise.
Sens Hero: Kyle Turris
Turris had a goal and an assist and rang one off the post in overtime; he was easily the Sens’ most dangerous player all night. It’s worth noting that his line looked particularly good after he was reunited with Dzingel
Sens Honourable Mention: Craig Anderson
Yes, Andy had the brutal give-away that let the Flyers tie it but that only prevents him from reaching hero status. He was forced to make several difficult saves, and without his play Ottawa probably doesn’t even get the single point
Sens Killer: Jordan Weal
Weal got the late equalizer and then scored the only goal in the shootout. On top of that, Weal was a menace all night long.