Being an Ottawa Senators fan has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster of late, and tonight’s match-up against the Detroit Red Wings was no exception. As you may have heard, Clarke MacArthur made an unexpected return to the line-up in the midst of what could only be described as a mild crisis of confidence for the club. On top of that, Craig Anderson was honoured before puck drop for reaching 500 career games; a thank-you video from his wife Nicole and their two sons clearly had an emotional impact on Andy as he was near tears. It’s worth watching the whole thing:
All of this took place before a critical late-season game that would go a long way towards determining the Sens’ play-off fate. It would be fair to describe fans as “high-strung” when this one got under way.
It was almost fitting, then, that Ottawa came out of the gate flat. In fact, their play in the first period was a lot more reminiscent of a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back against a cellar-dwelling opponent (which is all true) than a team engaged in the high stakes described above. Fortunately, Anderson was the one player who was sharp from the go and he made a couple of critical saves to keep the game scoreless until the Sens could find their legs. And when the Sens most need a hero, you can bet that Erik Karlsson will answer the call. Tonight the captain opened the scoring with a wicked wrist shot from a near impossible angle:
On occasion, it’s important as Sens fans to pause and appreciated just how good Karlsson really is. Let’s all just pause together now for a minute and appreciate. This will be important later.
Alright, pause over. The rest of the opening frame was relatively uneventful but slightly in Detroit’s favour: shots were 11-6 for the Wings after one.
In the second period, the Sens seemed to remember they were the better of the two teams and took the game over completely. The passes through the neutral zone were crisper, there was much less time spent defending Detroit cycling in the defensive end and the reunited Pyatt-Pageau-Hoffman line even scored an insurance goal midway through the stanza. Detroit were rarely able to exit their own zone with speed and managed a meagre three shots. By the end of the second, the out of town scoreboard was also looking good for Ottawa as the Washington Capitals led the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins were comfortably ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. At last, for a minute, we could all relax.
That roller-coaster description at the top wasn’t for nothing, however, and all it took was Karlsson falling awkwardly into the boards to bring everyone’s heart rate right back up. It didn’t look good at the time, and though he returned to the bench Karlsson never did return to the ice for another shift. Instead the captain acted as a defacto coach and gave pointers to the other defensemen while the Sens ran out the last ten minutes of a game that seemed easily in hand moments earlier.
When it was all said and done, Ottawa walked away with an emotionally-charged 2-0 victory. This was needed to give themselves some breathing room in the hunt for the play-offs but it will feel like an awfully hollow victory if the captain is re-injured.
Just enough time to catch your breath before Thursday’s massive game against the Boston Bruins.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Every so often it’s fashionable to debate whether Mike Condon deserves to be the starter over Anderson. Andy reminded us all, again, why it’s just not a debate worth having.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
If Karlsson’s hurt again it’s really bad news for Ottawa, but the captain was once again fantastic in the time he did play tonight
Sens Hero: Clarke MacArthur
It’s going to be hard not to cringe every time he takes a hit, and for his sake I really, really, really, hope he’s 100% healthy, but damn if Mac’s return to the Sens’ line-up tonight wasn’t some inspirational stuff. This post-game interview may leave with you some FEELINGS.
(Sens were flat in the first, dominated the second and the first half of the third and then sat on the lead in a big way after Karlsson went down)