The Senators went into tonight’s game with a chance to sweep the California road trip since the first time since some guy nicknamed the Hamburglar led the Sens to the most improbably march to the playoffs in NHL history. But another Hamburlgar-esque run was not (yet?) to be, because the Sharks took it 4-1. The Sens never looked outplayed for long stretches, but some clutch goaltending by Martin Jones and a couple fortuitous bounces for the Sharks sealed this one.
The start of the game was delayed because the Sharks were celebrating Brent Burns’ 1000th game. Reaching 1000 games is a big deal, and it was nice to see them celebrate with some unique gifts. He received a fossilized shark tooth that was millions of years old, and a pair of antelope (yes, the plural of antelope is antelope) for his Texas ranch. I’m all for unique gifts, and sticks, pucks, and paintings just aren’t that unique. Of course, seeing Burns start off in a Wild jersey reminded me of certain other superstars whose original teams should never have traded them, but I digress.
On to the game. San Jose had a number of good chances early in the period, and Nilsson had to be sharp for chances in tight. It wasn’t until 6:42 into the period that the Sens finally recorded their first shot on goal, looking like many games recently like they’d forgot the start time of the game. It was also a game of few whistles, with the first whistle of the game marking the first commercial break, and the fourth marking the second (with just 7:26 to go in the period). It was almost like the teams were helping out the Sens fans in Ottawa for whom the game didn’t start until about 10:20 pm. Returning from that second break, Rudolfs Balcers got the best chance of the game so far on a no-look backhand shot in the slot after a pass out from behind the net, but Martin Jones made a quick right-pad save. After a pair of icing calls, Stone got in on a breakaway, but Jones just got his blocker on it when Stone tried to go backhand-shelf.
The first period was really a tale of two halves. For the first half of the period, San Jose dominated and Ottawa looked happy to keep the puck out of their own net. For the second half, the Sens generated all the chances, got traffic in front to generate tips off point shots, and the Sharks were forced into several icing calls. Neither team could beat a goalie though, so the teams headed to the break tied in goals (0-0) and in shots (6-6).
The second period opened with several chances for Ottawa, including a couple in tight on a powerplay. In particular, Ryan Dzingel came a couple of centimetres away from opening the scoring in the game, taking a clear shot just wide of the far post. The notable exception to Ottawa’s pressure was one shift where Erik Karlsson seemed to get about 214 wide-open one-timers. The second period actually felt a lot like the first in reverse, with the Sens jumping out to an early 4-2 lead in shots, but then the Sharks going 7-1 right after that. That San Jose-leaning section featured a nice desperation play by Christian Jaros who was deked by Joe Pavelski, but then Jaros sprawled out to take away an chance of a Pavelski shot. But to make sure it wasn’t just a back then forth period, with five minutes left, Brady Tkachuk drew a tripping penalty and the Sens got several great chances to wrestle back the flow of play. First, Stone threw a slap pass to Tkachuk right in front of the net, but Jones made a nice save. Then a few of the ex-Sharks got great chances, first with Balcers passing to Chris Tierney in front, and then Mikkel Boedker making a no-look backhand pass from below the goal line to Tierney in front who was absolutely robbed by Jones.
Just when you thought it might be another scoreless period, Joe Pavelski did what he does best: score. He got a bit of space in the slot, and ripped it high past Nilsson’s glove. It was Pavelski’s 26th of the season, another reminder that the 34-year-old pending UFA still has a lot left in the tank. That did it for the second, in a tight game which saw the Sharks with a 1-0 lead, but was still definitely anybody’s game.
Over the intermission, (Erik) Karlsson said in his interview that the Sharks knew they could be better than they’d played so far in the game, and they came out in the third seeming like they were trying to prove it. They pressured harder, and were rewarded with the second goal of the game when Burns put it in off Jaros’ skate. Just 27 seconds later though, Ottawa’s forecheck generated a chance which led to Ryan Dzingel scoring a goal on nearly the identical placement of Pavelski’s. Ottawa was then gifted a chance to tie up the game when Pavelski decided to up end Tierney, who stayed down for a few seconds, worrying the already badly hurt Sens, but he talked to the trainers and remained on the bench. Ottawa failed to score on the powerplay, and in the ensuing Sharks bounce-back shift, Borowiecki took a hard hit that kept him down a bit long, and then Jaros decided to haul down Evander Kane, which sent the Sharks to their first powerplay of the night. After a decent chance at tying the game, the Sens were risking falling farther behind. The Sharks didn’t score on their powerplay, but they maintained pressure after the penalty kill and with some tired Sens on the ice, cycled the puck until they scored. Karlsson set up Burns at the point, and his shot deflected off Timo Meier and into the net. Joe Thornton swung at the puck in the crease, but he only hit Nilsson’s skate, so Karlsson was originally credited with his first career goal against Ottawa. Except later the in-house scorers assigned the goal to Thornton, which took away Karlsson’s point. I imagine that’ll change tomorrow, but for now, Karlsson has yet to record a point against the Sens.
With about two minutes left, the Sens got into the Sharks’ zone and Boucher pulled Nilsson to push for two late goals. The Sens maintained pressure for a the first 40 seconds or so, but eventually Melker Karlsson got to skate the puck out of the zone and score on the empty net. That did it for the Sens’ night essentially. Sure they had to play another 80 seconds, but nobody was really trying to score or defend.
- The best Shark tonight was definitely Martin Jones. He made several big saves, and though Nilsson was good, Jones ensured his team won.
- A few ex-Sharks stood out to me tonight. Balcers threatened, and with Colin White out, he was the fourth-liner who was promoted to the third line. Mikkel Boedker played the best game I think I’ve seen out of him in a while. Chris Tierney was the most dangerous Senator of the night, but he couldn’t manage to find his way onto the scoresheet.
- Christian Wolanin played a team-high and a career-high 23:32 tonight — he’s never surpassed 20 minutes before tonight. Sure, almost four of that was on the powerplay, but that’s still time that he’s taken away from Cody Ceci or DeMelo. It really begs the question as to why he wasn’t called up around Game 5, and why he was a healthy scratch on Wednesday. I hope someone asks Boucher why his biggest minute-muncher was scratched just two games ago.
- Don’t look now, but Bobby Ryan is on a seven-game point streak, and has 10 points in his last 11 games. He now has 28 points in 43 games, which is five points short of last year’s point total in 19 fewer games. He could have his best season in 4-5 years here.