We all knew the Sens were incapable of tanking.
I’ve been saying it since it this awful slide began: no matter how bad this team is, or how dire things look, you can always bet the Sens mounting an epic winning streak as soon as the playoffs become truly out of reach. They might not always win when it matters, but they definitely always win when it doesn’t.
Today’s game was a weird one to watch, because as exciting as it was, and as many goals as the Sens scored, I still couldn’t quite bring myself to care. I was happy to see some of my favourite players score, but at the same time I was frustrated that the team was ruining its draft pick by doing this. I got some joy out of seeing Ottawa overtake Montreal in the standings, but I also knew that meant Montreal was in a better position for the draft. I didn’t want the Sens to lose, but I didn’t really want them to win either.
And I’ll be honest here: if there had been Olympic events going on at the same time as this game, I would have watched that instead. I just don’t care enough anymore.
The game began with a shocking reversal of roles compared to what we’re used to seeing from the Sens, as the first goal was scored mere seconds into the game… by the Ottawa Senators.
Yes, after starting almost every single game for the past month with a goal against off the opening faceoff, the Sens finally realized they had a problem, and decided to actually wake up before puck drop. Brassard got the puck behind the Rangers’ net, and set up Mark Stone for a one-timer in the slot. I’d forgotten what it felt like to score the first goal of the game.
The momentum carried throughout the next few shifts, as the Brassard-Stone-Smith line dominated against the Rangers and the entire Ottawa team generally looked like the better team. New York started to look a bit better toward the middle of the period, but play remained mostly even, with both teams trading chances but neither one dominating.
Ottawa soon doubled their lead when Erik Karlsson worked his magic, drawing the attention of the Rangers’ players to him then sending an absolutely beautiful pass to Johnny Oduya, who sent a wrist shot into the back of the Rangers’ net. You can’t really blame the Rangers’ defensemen on that one. I wouldn’t expect Erik Karlsson to pass to Johnny Oduya either, especially not in the offensive zone.
Ottawa started playing even better after that goal, with Derick Brassard getting perhaps the best scoring chance of the period that didn’t actually go in. The Sens did not look at all like a team that was supposed to be tanking, though they did look like an Ottawa Senators team that just hit rock bottom and suddenly decided it was time to start winning.
The Rangers made things interesting with a few minutes left in the period. Ben Harpur tried and failed to clear the puck in the defensive zone, allowing New York to rush the net and Michael Grabner to tap in a rebound. Craig Anderson clearly thought he had saved the goal, but it slipped through him and the score was 2-1.
Henrik Lundqvist made one more amazing save in the period when Karlsson set up Tom Pyatt for what looked like a sure goal.
There was a slightly scary moment about thirty seconds before the end of the period, when Derick Brassard appeared to take a puck to the neck and went down in obvious pain. Thankfully he did return for the second period so let’s hope he wasn’t seriously injured.
The Sens began the second frame with a powerplay. They didn’t score with the man advantage, but they did continue to carry the play as they had in the first twenty minutes. Almost all the forwards looked like offensive threats. Even Cody Ceci was making good defensive plays. It was weird.
With about eight minutes left in the period, Thomas Chabot sent a nice pass to Cody Ceci, whose shot from the point was then deflected in front of the net by none other than Matt Duchene. #95 now has 5 more goals and 3 more points than Turris since the trade, and on a considerably worse team, but who’s counting?
The Rangers responded immediately afterward, with a dangerous-looking breakaway that forced Craig Anderson to make a huge stop. Then Mika Zibanejad of all people walked right around Pageau, Harpur and Pyatt to make the score 3-2 Ottawa. As much as I love Brassard, I still miss Zibanejad.
The play evened out a lot after that, with the Rangers starting to look like a real offensive threat. They weren’t exactly dominating, but they certainly looked a lot better than before. Derick Brassard crushed any chance of a comeback with just over a minute left, though, tapping in an excellent pass from Mark Borowiecki. Since when does Boro make plays like that? Not that I’m complaining.
The third period began the same way the second did: with an unsuccessful Senators powerplay. The first few minutes were largely uneventful, with New York’s Rick Nash getting the most dangerous scoring chance for either team. At one point, Henrik Lundqvist decided to go way out of his net for some reason, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau almost scored as a result. Aside from that, the play was mostly carried by the Rangers.
About seven minutes into the period, Hotsam Batcho himself put the Sens up 5-2 with a wraparound that banked off a Rangers skater. The refs weren’t sure at first if the puck had actually gone into the net, but later declared it a good goal. Personally, my favourite part of that sequence was the play-by-play people pointing out that Mark Stone was celebrating, as if that proved that the puck had gone in. I somehow doubt Mark Stone waits to make sure the puck definitely went in the net before celebrating like he just won the Stanley Cup.
The Rangers changed goaltenders after that, but it didn’t make a difference so late in the game. A late powerplay gave them a few good opportunities, but they failed to get past Craig Anderson. The 5-3 goal was scored with just under five minutes left in the game, and while the Rangers thoroughly dominated play afterward, even the Ottawa Senators couldn’t manage to blow that lead. Magnus Paajarvi even extended the Sens lead toward the end, with a goal that was challenged for goaltender interference but ultimately allowed.
- Credit where credit is due: Cody Ceci made some good plays in this game.
- Ben Harpur, not so much.
- Derick Brassard put up a great performance against his former team, with a goal and two assists.
- Matt Duchene has quietly been Ottawa’s best forward in these last few games.
- Thomas Chabot looked pretty great too.