The Ottawa Senators returned to home ice on Saturday to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus (40-16-6) is one of the Metropololitan division’s four firepower teams, comfortably sitting in the same divisional position as the Sens but with a dozen more points.
It was the Sens however who prevailed, with the added depth playing a key role in earning the two points. Craig Anderson would also continue his dominant season, stopping 25 of 27 shots en route to a 3-2 victory.
The first period didn’t begin quite as planned for the Senators, as Zach Werenski cut through two Sens players and fed the puck to Brandon Saad, who fired it past Anderson. It was Saad’s 20th goal of the season, and the Jackets jumped to the early 1-0 lead.
With a first round playoff matchup between Ottawa and Columbus a possibility, the two teams decided to get bit scrappy. With Craig Anderson along the end boards, Brandon Dubinsky went in to grab the puck and tripped Anderson with his skate in the process. Accidental or not, Sens enforcer Mark Borowiecki went right for Dubinsky, dropping the gloves. Dubinsky got called for tripping, and Boro got an instigator and his second misconduct of the season (tying him with Burrows). Columbus throughout the first period made a point of getting in front of Anderson, which led to some more skirmishing.
Not long after the incident, deadline acquisition Viktor Stalberg found the puck in front of the net, and jostled off a Blue Jacket to put the puck past goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. With Burrows scoring two in the last game and Stalberg adding one tonight, I’ve got to say I’m really looking forward to Jyrki Jokipakka’s Sens debut. Just give Dorion the GM of the Year Award already.
Columbus would get some extended pressure late, although the defence would prevail sending both teams to the dressing room tied 1-1.
The second period wasn’t as eventful in shots (total of 12 compared to 22 in the first), although the Sens’ offence did a fantastic job of creating quality scoring chances. Passes were connecting, players were showing some creativity, and it didn’t come at the expense of the back check. They would catch some lucky breaks, though, as the Blue Jackets beat Anderson twice only to hit the post. The Sens would keep the offence rolling, dominating the period in scoring chances 12-2.
Ottawa was the team to strike next, to put the team up 2-1. Mark Stone rushed into the zone fending off the Jackets’ deadline acquisition Kyle Quincey. Bursting towards the net, Stone used his superhuman vision to thread a backhand pass to a pinching Erik Karlsson. The captain made no mistake, ripping the rubber past Korpisalo.
The Senators had to go to the penalty kill twice in the period, and both times you had to wonder why not every team is using the same system. It leaves the player on the point with very limited passing options, and the penalty killers were quick to calm down any chaos the Blue Jackets would try to create. It was simple, smooth, and most importantly effective. The second frame would come to a close up 2-1.
Usually at this time of the game, the Sens would try to defend their lead. All three of their last three wins were by a score of 2-1, and this game could’ve been another. Tonight was the opposite, however, as the offence would continue to roll and create high danger chances. Yet, the game stayed 2-1 with three minutes left in the third period.
On the power play, Columbus decided to pull their goalie to make it a 6-on-4. Pageau and Smith took objection quickly, with Zack Smith recording his team-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season.
Sam Gagne would capitalize on the power play shortly after, and Columbus would continue to pile shots in the remaining minute and a half. Ottawa would hold on, though, sealing the victory 3-2.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
Karlsson played in his 312th consecutive game tonight, surpassing Chris Phillips for the longest iron man streak in Sens history (yes, more than Mike Condon). It was only appropriate that he would score the pivotal goal, as well as make some astounding defensive plays.
Honourable Mention: The depth
Dorion’s goal at the trade deadline was to add depth, and he did just that. Two games past March 1st, his moves have already been paying dividends, with Viktor Stalberg adding a goal tonight.
The rest of the depth corps, both offensively and defensively, was fantastic as well. Players like Wingels, Pageau and Kelly were not only keeping their heads above water, but they were clearly outplaying the opposition. Mark Borowiecki, although I may not personally agree with his decision to instigate, held off the opposition cleanly finishing with a team-leading 73.91 CF%. This is the type of depth play we’ve been begging for for years, and it appears as if we’ve finally got it.
Honourable Mention: Mark Stone
He received plenty of offensive chances, and created many more with his unbelievable stick control. Some of his takeaways tonight left my jaw hanging.
Honourable Mention: Craig Anderson
Should I continue to go down the list? Andy was living on the edge tonight making some dangerous passes, one of which had to be bailed out heroically by Cody Ceci. Besides that, he was able to stand his ground, allowing only the two goals on Columbus’ 21 shots.
Sens Killer: Zach Werenski
Wherever the young blueliner was on the ice, he was having a positive impact for Columbus. Breaking the puck out, creating offensive chances, sustaining zone time, Werenski did it all. Hopefully he can continue to gain ground and beat out Matthews for the Calder.
The Sens return Monday to finish out their three-game homestand against the Boston Bruins at 7:30 PM.