It’s been said far too many times this season already, but sometimes there are bigger things than hockey. Today we got news that Jonathan Pitre had passed away at age 17. I can’t imagine the pain his mother must be going through, and just how hard it’d be to grieve in the public eye. What I think I found the most compelling about Pitre was how much right he had to be bitter about life, but he wasn’t. He always seemed grateful for everything he had, and was so eloquent in his speeches to go for your dreams. In a world in which I see my Facebook friends say, “Staying strong through these hard times” when Starbucks puts away their Pumpkin Spice Latte, there was something incredible about someone not even complaining about their struggles.
The Senators and Penguins did their part tonight to remember Pitre:
Tonight we’re honoured to have one more Senator with us when we take on the Penguins. We'll miss you, Jonathan. pic.twitter.com/qGP24M7DpV— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) April 6, 2018
Tonight we will join the @senators in honoring the memory of Jonathan Pitre, who succumbed to his battle with EB. Jonathan lived a heroic life by raising money and awareness, and helping others fight the disease. He touched many lives. We are forever humbled by his courage. pic.twitter.com/jICMYX6jHT— Dana Heinze (@RealDanaHeinze) April 6, 2018
Then the hockey game actually started, and as is tradition, the Sens gave up the first great scoring chance of the game, a breakaway to Sidney Crosby just 40 seconds in. As is not tradition though, Craig Anderson bailed out his team with two big saves:
The shots in the first period ended up being 8-6 for Pittsburgh, but you wouldn’t know it by the reactions of their stars. Evgeni Malkin took a double-minor for going after Zack Smith in front of an open bench door:
A very dangerous play by Malkin. Just classless. #Sens pic.twitter.com/ap2R5oQouu— Sens Army (@Senators_Army) April 7, 2018
Smith was lucky not to be injured on the play, and in a way, so was Malkin. That was likely a suspension if Smith had left the game, and this isn’t the time of year to get suspended. The Senators took advantage of their powerplay by not scoring, and even taking a too-many-men penalty near the end. Maybe it was just next-level strategies by Guy Boucher, knowing his powerplay is awful.
Also, Crosby should’ve got a penalty too, but hey, he’s Crosby:
Crosby allowed to land six cross checks to the back of Chabot there. Ref told him to "Take it easy" after the 3rd one. Some things never change. #Sens— SensChirp (@SensChirp) April 6, 2018
The second period was actually quite a bit better for the Sens in terms of the process, outshooting the Pens 13-9, but they ended up 2-0 behind. Ryan Dzingel’s double-minor for high-sticking carried over into the period, giving Pittsburgh’s powerplay yet another chance to go to work. Some quick puck movement got Craig Anderson a bit out of position. He stopped Phil Kessel’s shot, but the puck went to Crosby behind the goal line who shot it in off Andy’s leg. It was a bit of a bad goal for Anderson, but a) it’s Crosby, and b) I can’t blame him for being a little out of position with the Sens’ penalty kill at work.
One powerplay goal wasn’t enough for the Sens, so they want right back to the penalty kill. This time the Sens killed the powerplay, but just five seconds afterward, Jake Guentzel took his turn to throw the puck from behind the net, off Anderson’s leg and into the net. It was 2-0 on two goals from behind the goal line.
The Sens actually had some decent pressure in the last four minutes of the second, but with no goals. First, some good play by Fredrik Claesson, Cody Ceci (!!), and Jean-Gabriel Pageau got the cycle going. It ended with hilarity though, with Alexandre Burrows getting the puck at the goal line and throwing it back to Claesson at the point... 14 feet in the air. On the regroup though, Ryan Dzingel threw a great pass in front to Matt Duchene who was absolutely robbed by Casey DeSmith. Yes, he is a real guy, and yes, I did think they were saying “to Smith” every time they mentioned his name on the broadcast.
As the period wound down, Burrows got called for a trip that was kind of a trip, but was really similar to a move on Ceci just a couple shifts earlier. But the standards of penalties for star-studded Stanley Cup champions are a little different from us proles.
If the Sens deserved better in the second, they absolutely did in the third. The final shot count was 16-6 for the Sens. Somehow this DeSmith guy who I didn’t even know existed before today stood strong, making 35 saves, several of the phenomenal variety, earning his first career shutout. At the other end of the ice, Anderson continued his unlucky play, falling over to give Phil Kessel one of the easiest non-empty-net goals of his career. It didn’t matter, but it was an awful goal to allow in likely his final appearance of 2017-18. It didn’t even end there. With three minutes left, Crosby dropped a pass to Patric Hornqvist whose quick wrister fooled Anderson to make it 4-0.
Ottawa poured on the pressure to end the shutout bid to end the game, but with no success. With just four seconds left, the Sens nearly scored with DeSmith (not “to Smith”) lying on his back, Jamie Oleksiak grabbed the puck under his glove in the crease, which should’ve been a penalty shot, but a) it really didn’t matter, and b) the standards for a penalty are different for a star-studded Stanley Cup champion. The win guaranteed the Pens home ice in the first round, while the loss guaranteed the Sens second-last in the league.
- DeSmith looked really, really good. Why do the Pens have so many good young goalies?
- Duchene and Dzingel are really good at hockey. This team should hold onto them.
- Christian Wolanin looked good again. Ray Ferraro did a little highlight clip of him just making a smart, simple play to force a player away from the net. He’s been a good story in a season in which we desperately needed some.
- Anderson allowed one bad goal and three unlucky ones. But if you allow three unlucky goals in a game, two of them by giving space to bank a puck behind the net off your leg, maybe it’s not that unlucky after all.