After being embarrassed two days ago against the Canadiens, the Senators were hoping for a better result at home tonight. Unfortunately, outside of maybe the first 10 minutes of the game, the Sens looked like they didn’t belong in this one either. By the time the final horn sounded, the Habs fans (who were more than half the audience) were chanting “Olé Olé Olé”, and the Senators were licking their wounds, both metaphorically after losing back-to-back games against their division rivals, and physically after losing both Bobby Ryan and Matt Duchene to injuries.
The Senators started off looking like there were playing to undo the sins of Tuesday night, running the course of play, and getting a number of chances off the rush. First Cody Ceci, then Thomas Chabot, and then Dylan DeMelo forced Carey Price into some decent saves. Then Colin White did his best Mark Stone impression by stealing the puck on the backcheck and passing to Stone who passed to Brady Tkachuk, who got off a great high shot that Price managed to glove. But while the commentators were still gushing over the play, White won a faceoff and Stone fired home a wrister while Tkachuk opened up some space and seemingly helped to screen Price. My favourite part was Stone skating straight to Christian Jaros for a high-five, and Jaros half-heartedly trying to celebrate the goal with Stone’s enthusiasm.
The lead was short-lived, as just 20 seconds later Jeff Petry floated in a nothing shot from the point that beat Craig Anderson high. Mike Johnson pointed out that both Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene had been caught low, so nobody was at the point. It meant that Duchene awkwardly tried to play wing, attempting to block the shot from nowhere near the shooter, and instead just took away Andy’s eyes. You could see it in Anderson’s frustration after the shot — he knew he would’ve stopped it if he’d seen it.
Not longer after the goal, Zack Smith decided to carry over the frustration with Max Domi from last game, Domi went down very easily after a faceoff, and Smith gifted the Habs the first powerplay of the game. Now Domi went down far too easily, stayed down far too long, and was skating around smiling 10 seconds after the penalty was called, but there’s a certain responsibility here of Guy Boucher. I’m not talking about the wisdom of playing Ottawa’s fourth line against the Canadiens’ top line on purpose (that’s a discussion for another day), but rather the wisdom of playing Smith against Domi when Smith had already seemed tilted by Domi. It’s the coach’s responsibility to either talk his player down, or even better, not play him against the guy who’s going to push him over the edge.
After Ottawa killed the penalty, things opened up a bit. Both teams were happy to trade high-danger scoring chances. But after the 14-minute mark, when Bobby Ryan got a good chance, the play seemed to shift in Montreal’s direction. Anderson was forced into big saves against Brendan Gallagher, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. After running play to start the game, the first finished with Ottawa seeming lucky to have held on to a 1-1 tie. Ottawa got a scare near the end of the period, when Ryan’s face ran into Brett Kulak’s shoulder and the former went down for a few seconds. Ryan was hurt on the play, and didn’t return to the game.
Bobby Ryan injures himself by running face-first into Brett Kulak's shoulder. pic.twitter.com/9nlHeRO8hn— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 7, 2018
The second period started off just where the first had finished, with the Canadiens dominating play and Ottawa just trying to hold on. The lone exception was a break on which Matt Duchene flipped a saucer pass to a wide-open Brady Tkachuk who was alone on the doorstep, but Tkachuk was unable to bat the puck out of the air for the go-ahead goal. Matt Duchene ended up getting called for a soft penalty, and on that powerplay Chris Tierney got a shorthanded half-breakaway in which he got Ottawa’s first shot on goal in 15 minutes going back to the first period. After the penalty, Duchene raced to beat out an icing call, pulled something in his right leg, and went straight down the tunnel. He did not return to the game either. Then on the ensuing faceoff, somehow Philip Danault was alone below the circle, and Paul Byron was alone in front, and Byron tapped in an easy cross-crease pass. Then a few minutes later Thomas Chabot failed to clear the puck, and again Jonathan Drouin and Andrew Shaw finished off a two-on-one down low that was eerily similar to the 2-1 goal. Cody Ceci’s technique of “stand up stay still and hope the puck hits you” to defend the 2-on-1 was about as helpful as Chabot’s giveaway to set up the chance with one guy back. I didn’t feel like re-watching either goal, so I didn’t link them here.
Late in the period, the Sens got a chance to come back into it when Brett Kulak decided to bear hug Zack Smith who wasn’t in a particularly threatening position, and the Sens got their first powerplay of the game. They did exactly what has worked for them on the powerplay this year — lots of puck movement and a little bit of unpredictable chaos — and managed to bring things back within one. Price came out aggressively to make a save on Ryan Dzingel, but the in trying to get set for the next shot, he bumped into Shea Weber who’d decided to stake position in his own crease. White fired in the rebound, and with Price falling over, the puck beat him. Suddenly, Ottawa wasn’t completely out of a game in which they’d badly fallen out of, and when Chris Tierney fired the puck on net in the final 2 seconds, Sens fans realized how close they were to escaping with a tie again.
The third didn’t start as desperate for the Sens as I’d hoped, but they still managed to get some pressure early thanks to, believe it or not, their bottom six (??) and an effective pinch from Ben Harpur. Price was flopping around in the net, but the Sens couldn’t pot it. I add question marks because with both Duchene and Ryan out, the Sens were rolling 3-and-a-third lines. But to sap some of the Sens’ energy, the Habs got one back. Brendan Gallagher tipped a shot in front that hit the post, hit Anderson’s leg, and snuck in just inside the other post. It was an unlucky goal for the Sens to put them down two, and likely force a short bench to have to take chances. Not long after, Mark Stone almost set up White for his second of the night on a gorgeous breakaway feed, but White put his chance just over the net.
The third period was pretty boring from there. Ottawa didn’t really threaten, and then with five minutes left, Ben Harpur threw the puck over the glass to give the Habs a powerplay. Montreal wouldn’t score on the powerplay, and this time Ottawa got the lucky bounce in that a shot hit the post, hit the back of Anderson’s stick and went out the side, but really the Habs didn’t need to score. They were just running the Sens out of time. Anderson was pulled with 2.5 minutes left, and almost immediately the Sens lost control of the puck. Again, Mike Johnson had an astute observation that Harpur had no clue Andy was out of the net, because he backed off Byron to play the 1-on-1, rather than stepping up to prevent an open shot on an empty net. And that basically did it, and the Sens lost back-to-back 5-2 games against the hated Habs.
- Colin White was about the only player who stood out in a good way. He was having a pretty good game, and had some good individual plays like his backcheck takeaway. He’s quietly on pace for 52 points, which is pretty great considering how we were all a little skeptical that he could be a top-six player in the NHL.
- I pointed out a couple Harpur flaws above, but there was also a play early in the second where he made a nice takeaway, but then with no pressure on him in his own zone, he flipped the puck out to centre. He just doesn’t quite seem to think fast enough for the NHL. I hate to keep piling on the guy, but if he was 5’ 11”, he wouldn’t have got more than 3 NHL games.
- The real loser of the night though was Thomas Chabot. He seemed uncharacteristically off, giving the puck away, flubbing clearing attempts, and ending up on the ice for 4/5 goals against. I mean, he was paired with Ceci most of the night, but it was Chabot who stood out as bad. Chabot finished with 29% (!!) of the 5v5 shot attempts, only ahead of Jaros among defencemen.
- Boucher kept putting Smith out against the Domi line. I’m not convinced that Pyatt-Smith-Pajaarvi is a shutdown line (no offence doesn’t automatically mean good at defence), but more than that, Smith seemed angry every time he talked to Domi, while Domi seemed to just be laughing. I think Boucher should’ve been smart, because Smith took one dumb penalty, and easily could’ve taken four more with his frustration.
- The final shot count was 43-21 for the Habs. You’re not gonna win many games like that, and Anderson gave his team a chance.