If you’re firmly in Team Tank, this may as well have been the biggest game of the season. The Senators came into this contest four points ahead of the Sabres from second last in the league, and a loss against Buffalo would’ve escalated their odds at winning the draft lottery even further.
But the players were having none of it, especially newcomer Marian Gaborik, as the Sens toppled the Sabres in overtime by a score of 3-2.
It almost seems predetermined at this point, but the Senators allowed the first goal of the game early. This has happened five times in a row:
Travis Zajac scored at 1:57 against New Jersey,
P.K. Subban scored at 0:34 against Nashville,
Mitch Marner scored at 1:55 against Toronto,
Jake Guentzel scored at 4:07 against Pittsburgh,
and Scott Wilson scored at 6:31 in this matchup.
Over and over, the cycle continues.
Mark Borowiecki couldn’t control the puck, and Johan Larsson pushed him off to get the it Wilson. With Craig Anderson in net and Thomas Chabot flopping in front of him, the shot went in short side to put Ottawa in a 1-0 deficit.
It was the only goal the first period had to offer, although Borowiecki got back into the action, throwing a big hit on fellow Ottawa native Nicholas Baptiste. He briefly dropped the gloves with Zemgus Girgensons, as the two went off for coincidental roughing minors.
The second period was less eventful than the first, with Borowiecki (again!) getting the only memorable chance on an uncharacteristic pinch. Penalties were exchanged, and you’d think one would go in considering both teams are in the bottom ten in penalty killing. Except both teams are also in the bottom ten for their power play, so nothing came of the man-advantages.
After being acquired via trade two days ago, Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore were in Sens jerseys for the first time. Gaborik in particular had an outstanding third period, as he tied the game at one apiece. Scoring in franchise debuts seems to be his specialty, as for the five times he’s played his first game with a new team, he’s now scored in four of them (stat via the Sens’ broadcast). Karlsson’s blistering shot from the point caught the edge of the Slovak’s stick, slipping past Robin Lehner to even the game at one.
.@MGaborik12's first goal with the #Sens ties it at 1-1. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/1ef6mzYlDy— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) February 16, 2018
A short aside, but since being traded to Buffalo, Lehner seems to reach another level every time he faces the Senators. He has yet to lose in regulation after eight games against his former team (5-0-3), with his save percentage of 95.0% being almost unstoppable.
With under five minutes to go, Evan Rodrigues scored for Buffalo, and I’m not going to lie, I cheered a little. Rasmus Dahlin’s too good.
With Ryan Dzingel covering for a pinching Karlsson, the Sabres rushed down the ice on a standard two-on-two. With Ben Harpur poorly covering Rodrigues, Kyle Okposo was able to get a pass through that Rodrigues shot bar-down. Not a good look for the apparent top-four defenceman.
Ottawa pulled Anderson for the extra attacker, and when it looked like it would be a victory for Team Tank, with 30 seconds on the clock, Derick Brassard set the goal horn blasting. A slick backhand pass from the one and only Marian Gaborik put the puck on the tape of Brassard, who shot the puck past a sprawling Lehner to send this game to overtime.
One player who’s been the recent hot hand for game-winning goals: Mike Hoffman. He had the beautiful shootout winner against Philadelphia, the overtime winner against Nashville exactly a week ago, and he added another one with his laser shot.
With the trio of Karlsson, Duchene and Hoffman entering the zone, the third Buffalo player coasting back proved to be critical, as nobody was able to cover Hoffman and his rocket. It’s been three weeks since the Sens have lost on home ice, giving them a record of 5-3-0 since February 1st.
Another OT winner for Mike Hoffman. @EASPORTSNHL pic.twitter.com/vuIaP2zGXl— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) February 16, 2018
The final score: Ottawa 3, Buffalo 2.
- Erik Karlsson loosened up offensively big-time, putting everything on net. His results this season haven’t been bad by any means, but this is the Generational Talent Erik Karlsson that we’ve only seen pop up occasionally.
- Matt Duchene picked up the secondary assist on all three goals. He’s up to eight points in his last five games, as well as nineteen in his last eighteen games.
- Nick Shore played a team-low 8:45, and I could’ve sworn it was less. Barely noticed him in his Sens debut.
- Marian Gaborik was the big story of the evening. He only looked dangerous in the third period, although his assist on the game-tying goal was nice. I wouldn’t rush to call him a top six player (after all, Alex Burrows scored two goals in his Sens debut), but he seems to still have some offence left in him.
- For comparison, Dion Phaneuf only scored one point in his Kings debut (a goal), so the Sens clearly won the trade!
Individual Expected Goals (from MoneyPuck.com)
It’s an afternoon game against the New York Rangers, back at home this Saturday at 2:00 p.m.