Meaningless hockey is never fun.
It’s even worse when it comes less than a year after some of the most meaningful hockey this team has ever played.
This was the Sens’ first game since being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention (though all hope of them actually making the playoffs was dashed way back in December).
The only true meaning of this game - the only reason why thousands of people stood up before the puck even dropped to give their captain a standing ovation - was on the personal side. For the Ottawa Senators and their fans, these last few days have been a sobering reminder that there are things much, much more important than hockey.
This would have been a nice game to win. Not for the team’s place in the standings, but for Erik. Because even though a win doesn’t change anything for anyone, hockey can heal. For some reason, we have all assigned value to this ultimately meaningless sport. It’s clear that Erik Karlsson would rather be at the rink as he deals with this awful tragedy and, well, it would have been really nice to get a better result for him.
Ottawa started the game on a good note, taking a fairly decisive lead in shots over the course of the first period. Erik Karlsson hit the post early on for the first good scoring chance of the game, and while the Sens spent a lot of time in their own zone, they did manage to keep most of the play to the outside. Most of the best chances happened in the Carolina zone, even though the Canes seemed to be carrying the play.
Unfortunately, Carolina’s Jordan Staal was the one to open the scoring, with a shot so fast I didn’t realize the Canes were even in danger of scoring until they started celebrating the goal.
Fortunately, Ryan Dzingel responded only a few minutes later, doing great work in the offensive zone then sending the puck to the net, where Bobby Ryan tipped it in to even the score. That goal marked Ryan’s 500th career point, and put him only one goal away from hitting double digits this season. How exciting!! Erik Karlsson also got the second assist.
Dzingel got another great chance shortly afterward, but was stopped by Cam Ward.
The Sens got the first power play of the game with about 7 minutes left, and looked okay by Sens standards even though they only managed one shot on goal.
The last few minutes of the period were especially exciting, with Pageau very nearly giving the Sens the lead and Carolina responding with a few good chances of their own.
The second period was fairly even and a bit faster paced than most Sens games, but that didn’t necessarily mean it was exciting. It’s hard to get excited about a game as utterly meaningless as this one.
Ottawa got a powerplay early on when Matt Duchene got tripped up in the midst of a very nice rush toward the net. Of course, the Sens started that powerplay in their own zone, but eventually managed to move the play down to the other end of the ice and get a few chances.
Very little happened for the rest of the period, with both teams playing well without getting any particularly good looks at the net. Unfortunately, with 2:41 left on the clock, Carolina took the lead. The play definitely looked offside, and Boucher challenged it for that reason, but the league decided it wasn’t, and Ottawa ended up with a penalty as a punishment for challenging it. Thanks, I guess?
Ottawa started the third period a bit flat-footed, and Hurricanes player Jeff Skinner got two excellent scoring chances within the first two minutes. The Sens woke up a bit after that, but couldn’t even the score. Noah Hanifin soon gave Carolina a 3-1 lead with a beautiful goal less than ten minutes into the period. Jeff Skinner responded almost immediately afterward, extending the Canes’ lead to 4-1. Mike Hoffman looked particularly mad after that goal, as he slammed his stick over the net.
With only a few minutes left in the third period, Thomas Chabot gave Sens fans some reason to cheer, even if it was too late for a comeback. The young defenseman quietly snuck in from the point and tapped in a great shot from the Captain to make the score 4-2. I like to think he was inspired by this life-changing moment:
Do you think he was wearing the shirt under his equipment? He definitely was.
The Sens pulled Condon soon after that, and looked great with the extra attacker, but unfortunately ended up giving up an empty net goal to Jordan Staal.
- Ryan Dzingel was absolutely on fire tonight.
- Matt Duchene had a great game.
- Thomas Chabot looked pretty good all night.
- Guy Boucher actually played Alex Burrows on a light with Hoffman and Duchene at one point and I feel like pointing that out.
- Karlsson played extremely well in what was surely a very emotional game for him.