Hockey has a funny way of making fools of people who look too far ahead, or who believe certain outcomes to be decided. Take for example, the below paragraph that was going to serve as the introduction to my recap of tonight’s game. A game that the Sens astonishingly came back to win 4-3 with three goals in less than six minutes late in the third:
The Ottawa Senators rolled into Philadelphia Tuesday night to play the Flyers for the second night of a back-to-back after falling to the Rangers in New York the night before. There’s a bit of turmoil in Philly these days, what with the firing of their General Manager Ron Hextall and Paul Holmgren’s proclamation that coach Dave Hakstol’s fate would be determined by whoever is chosen as the next GM. Hockey wisdom holds that teams usually respond to organizational shake-ups with some inspired play. If you’re a Flyers fan, the team’s performance tonight didn’t disappoint. If you’re a Sens fan, it was just another reminder of how far the team has to go before they’re once again competitive.
What a bunch of garbage! Don’t ever write any part of a recap before the final horn sounds, friends, especially when it involves these Ottawa Senators. Down 10-1 with 30 seconds remaining?! Don’t even think about it! Anything is possible!
The reason the Sens did have to dig themselves out of that third period hole was because Philadelphia soundly carried the play for the first 50+ minutes of this encounter. In fact, it didn’t take long for the Flyers to strike first, with Travis Konecny firing a one-timer past Mike McKenna less than five minutes into the game.
This goal really epitomizes the Sens’ defensive struggles this year; the Flyers were harmlessly flipping the puck to centre and Ottawa is back with numbers to defend but what should be a simple 3-on-3 turns into a wide open one-timer from the slot for Konecny when Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo get their coverage crossed up and both end up going to cover the Flyers forward in front the net. It’s a little thing, but little things add up over the course of a game and the NHL is an unforgiving league.
Fortunately for the Sens, Mark Stone and Thomas Chabot are still in their employ and the two connected less than two minutes later to even the score.
Sometimes, it’s a simple game: when Chabot and Stone are on the ice, the Sens are a good team. When they are not....ehh....things get a bit dicey.
As the period progressed, it certainly seemed like the Flyers were invested in playing a physical game. Ben Harpur and Ryan Dzingel were both thrown over the boards by solid, clean checks. Harpur took exception to Dale Weise’s hit and the two squared off in a rare fight for the big rearguard.
The Sens had a couple of unremarkable powerplays, a frustrating theme of late, and Mike McKenna was forced into a couple of great saves but there was no more scoring in the opening frame after the two early tallies.
The second period, long a bugaboo of the Guy Boucher-era Sens, got off to a rough start with the Flyers very much controlling play. Only some more excellence from McKenna kept Philadelphia from expanding their lead. The trio of Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Travis Konecny, in particular, was excellent for the Flyers.
Unfortunately, when the only thing keeping you in it is your goalie, you usually run out of luck eventually. Jakub Voraceck wristed one past McKenna during a brief 6-on-5:
And then Radko Gudas beat McKenna through a crowd less than three minutes later and it really felt like this one was about to turn ugly:
Even a late Flyers tripping penalty to James Van Riemsdyk couldn’t breathe life back into the Sens: the Flyers got more grade A chances short-handed than the Sens did up a man and as the middle frame expired, it seemed like a night to forget for Ottawa.
Truthfully, for the first nearly 15 minutes of the third period it continued to feel that way. At one point the shots were 9-2 Philadelphia in the last stanza of a game the Sens were trailing by two. The shots were 36-17 overall and outside of a few bursts from the Stone, Colin White, and Brady Tkachuk line nothing seemed to be working.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Sens scored three goals in rapid succession — capped off by an absolutely beautiful effort from Matt Duchene:
Wooohooohooo. I needed a second to recover after watching all three of those goals in a row again just now. Where was that all game? Who’s to say!
- The third period flurry to win the game will get most of the headlines, but a comeback would not have been possible with the steady play of McKenna.
- Thomas Chabot picked up two more points in a game that was otherwise unremarkable for him. That’s where we are at with Chabot these days: he records two points and you could probably argue he didn’t even really play up to his normal standard. Remarkable.
- The Stone-White-Tkachuk line has been really good for basically the whole time it’s been together and it was excellent again tonight. In a game where the Sens were out-attempted 61-37 at even strength, Stone and White were +5 and +4 respectively.
- Matt Duchene was quiet for almost the entire evening until he wasn’t. It was just another reminder that with a player of his skill, it just takes one chance for him to change the outcome of a game.