With the Los Angeles Kings in town, we bore witness to the first of this season’s true great Tank Battles. If you expected this game to be a bit of a snooze-fest between two of the league’s basement-dwellers, then the first twenty minutes would have done nothing to disabuse you of that notion. There was very little flow to either team’s game, as both teams spent much of the first frame chipping the puck in deep, failing to retrieve it, changing, retrieving a dump-in, and starting again. Some of this was good defensive play, both teams looked well-organized, but some of this was offensive ineptitude as well.
The Sens took a couple of penalties, one to Chris Tierney for holding and one to Filip Chlapik for interference, but their penalty kill was more than up to the challenge against the Kings’ impotent power play. Ottawa’s best chance was afforded to Tierney who missed a seemingly empty net off a pass from Brady Tkachuk.
The second period opened much as the first had concluded, but Dustin Brown broke the ice after a Jean-Gabriel Pageau turnover in the neutral zone. Anze Kopitar found Brown between Nikita Zaitsev and Thomas Chabot, and the former Kings’ captain backhanded a shot over Anders Nilsson.
After that, the Sens really did seem to take control of the game — especially at 5v5, as the power play remained dismal in its two attempts. The pace of play picked up noticeably and Ottawa was able to push the attack with speed through the neutral zone and an effective forecheck. Anthony Duclair would equalize with less than three minutes remaining in the third after some extended zone time for the Sens. Duclair tipped home a Zaitsev shot for a well-deserved equalizer; Ottawa held a 15-6 shot advantage in the frame.
In the third, the Kings regained their footing a bit and Nilsson was forced into several spectacular saves to keep them off the scoreboard. One on Tyler Toffoli from in close and this one on Jeff Carter stood out:
Artem Anisimov would give the Sens a 2-1 lead nearly halfway through the third and for almost the entire last ten minutes it didn’t seem like the Kings would find the equalizer. At one point Connor Brown and Nick Paul broke into the Kings’ end staring down an empty net, but couldn’t salt the game away after Brown attempted an ill-fated pass to Paul.
The error came back to bite the Sens, as Toffoli equalized with just seven seconds remaining and we were off to overtime.
These days, when the Sens need a dose of heroics there’s only one man to call:
And so the Sens salvaged a win they probably deserved but almost threw away. Los Angeles isn’t exactly the stoutest of competition, they looked awfully thin after their top line, but full marks to Ottawa for being the better team. Winning might not have been the best thing for the tank, but you can’t lose them all and it was nice to see the team win a game they deserved to win.
- The first goal the Sens gave up was illustrative of some of the issues Zaitsev and Chabot have had this season. They were both in great position to defend the rush, and Chabot even makes a good read to follow Brown across the slot, but Zaitsev failed to close off Kopitar’s most dangerous passing lane and Chabot let Brown get inside position. It’s just a lot of little stuff like that; no one fell down, no one had an egregious give-away but with enough little mistakes, some are bound to end up in the back of your net.
- Tkachuk worked on improving his strength this off-season and it’s paid off in spades so far this season. His effort to get the puck back to Zaitsev on Duclair’s goal in the second period might not have worked as well as it did without that extra bit of strength to push off from the Kings’ defenseman.
- Jonathan Davidsson made his NHL debut and got the expected tiny amount of ice-time in the defeat. For what it’s worth, in his 4:56 of playing time I noticed him make a couple of positive plays and he showed off some of his tantalizing speed.
- The Sens’ Penalty Kill has been a pleasant surprise all season long and their performance in tonight’s game was no different. The Kings aren’t exactly the most lethal team with the man advantage but Ottawa very effectively pressured L.A’s zone entries and looked to push the puck up ice when given the opportunity to do so.
- Speaking of special teams, the Sens’ power play’s struggles continued tonight. On the one hand, it’s going to be tough to execute at a high level given the talent on the roster, but on the other hand the only times the Sens threatened tonight was when Chabot made a stellar individual play. Personnel will limit their ceiling, but there’s more they could be doing to improve the puck movement
- DJ Smith did his best to have the Pageau-Brown-Paul line out there whenever Kopitar’s line was on the ice and I thought they did a great job on the whole. They didn’t have to spend too much time defending because they were so relentless on the forecheck and forced more than a few critical turnovers; including on the game-winner in overtime.