The Ottawa Senators had a simple goal tonight. Clear the extremely low bar set by that dreadful game in Carolina, and do so in a big way. Meanwhile, tonight’s opponents, the New Jersey Devils, were determined to keep their recent string of success going, and claw their way back into the playoff race.
The Sens began the game as the slower of the two teams, as the Devils had the lion’s share of puck possession. An early penalty on J.C. Beaudin was killed off thanks to Jean-Gabriel Pageau being an immovable object in the Devils’ end and some sharp goaltending from Craig Anderson. The Sens went on the attack as the penalty expired, but a point shot from Thomas Chabot was blocked, which led to Wayne Simmonds being sprung on a breakaway. Simmonds faked a shot and successfully deked Anderson, putting the puck past the latter’s outstretched glove to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead.
Both teams would have unsuccessful power play attempts, and the Senators would then begin to find their groove offensively, trading bouts of possession with the Devils but not much by way of scoring chances. However, when you have a relentless line of Nick Paul, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Connor Brown, you’re bound to force a turnover or two. The trio did just that, and with some help from Erik Brannstrom moving the puck down low, Pageau would continue on his path of destruction, scoring his sixth goal in his last six games right at the front of the net. Unfortunately, the Devils would add a second goal with 2:08 left in the frame, courtesy of Will Butcher, who took advantage of some faulty zone coverage by Bobby Ryan. The Sens went into the break down 2-1, and down in shots 11-7. That’s funny, why do I suddenly want Pierre Dorion to trade for Nate Thompson?
The second period would see both teams get their chances, but it was pretty dull compared to the rest of the game, as well as many other games we’ve seen recently. Mackenzie Blackwood was up to the task for the Devils, stopping a number of dangerous attempts from Chris Tierney and Anthony Duclair. Jack Hughes would get a nice chance of his own for the home team, splitting the defence with 2:00 to go in the frame, but his attempt was easily stopped by Anderson. The Sens continued to make up for their slow start, eventually getting the shots to 18-15 in favour of New Jersey by the end of the period, while still down 2-1.
The start of the third period marked a huge raise in the excitement level. The Sens came out flying, desperate for the tying goal. Aside from a shooting gallery from the Devils about halfway through the frame, this period was all Ottawa. Brady Tkachuk and Anthony Duclair would get close; Tkachuk forcing a turnover and Duclair having his close-range attempt stopped by Blackwood. With 6:30 left in the period, Ottawa would finally break through as Filip Chlapik carried the puck into the zone with speed, drawing in the New Jersey defenders. Chlapik found a wide-open Nikita Zaitsev, who slid the puck over to Mark Borowiecki. Pageau and Vladislav Namestnikov provided the screen as the red-hot (by his standards) blueliner’s shot found it’s way past Blackwood for the tying goal. Credit to all five skaters on that goal, as well as Anderson for making a key save, one of his 21 on the evening, on Taylor Hall earlier in the period.
With only a few minutes left in the game, I was prepared for a fast-paced overtime period. Chabot was determined to end the game before then; he took advantage of a tired Devils squad after some extended pressure, gaining possession in the Devils’ end. He found a wide-open Paul, who was absolutely robbed by Blackwood. Paul, however, was determined to get his revenge, and a few shifts later, he fired a shot off the post, and the rebound was put away by none other than the legend himself:
Jean. Freaking. Hyphen. Freaking. Gabriel. Freaking. Pageau. 3-2 Ottawa.
The Devils pulled Blackwood with over 1:30 left. Their extended pressure was made all for naught as the puck was sent down the ice and into the empty net, by the noted 4th line centre that totally isn’t worth a 1st and a prospect...yes, Jean-Gabriel Pageau completed his third and easily least dramatic hat-trick of his career. The game ended 4-2 for your Ottawa Senators, who outshot the Devils 25-23 in the game. Hallelujah.
- The only explanation for Pageau’s current hot streak is that he’s got all of this offence stored up inside of him after playing with guys like Tom Pyatt, Zack Smith and Magnus Paajarvi for years. He’s been waiting for his moment to strike, and it has come...one year too early. The Senators need to identify exactly what they want him to be for them down the road and decide if the money he’ll make on his next deal is palatable for the role he’ll fill.
- Filip Chlapik looked like an NHL player tonight, and is quietly up to 4 points in 8 games, despite getting minimal ice time from D.J. Smith. At this rate he has to be given some more, and it won’t be long before he's told to find a place in Ottawa.
- D.J. Smith is really working the Paul-Pageau-Brown line; all three played over nineteen minutes each. Not that I’m complaining.
- Defence was on point tonight, as the Sens allowed only 23 shots on goal tonight; a very impressive feat. It’s good to see them bounce back like this, we didn’t see much of that with Boucher.
- Thomas Chabot was reunited with Dylan DeMelo, and the two dominated in the shot department, posting a 80.77 5v5 CF% together.
- Fun Fact: I’m now 3-0 in recapped games, and 0-3 in previewed games.
- The Sens return home to play the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday at 7:30 PM EST.