For a team that’s been rolling past all expectations over the past month, this game from the Ottawa Senators against the Florida Panthers felt like a step back into reality. The Sens’ mid-game collapse was too much to overcome, as they fell to the Panthers by a score of 6-1.
Even before the game started, the writing was already on the wall. The Sens were forced to recall Erik Brännström earlier in the day, not because they were satisfied with his play (although he’s been showing good improvement in Belleville), but because every other defenceman under contract was either injured, or outside the country. Between Christian Wolanin, Nikita Zaitsev, Dylan DeMelo and Christian Jaros, the Sens were bleeding on the backend, which is exactly what happened in this game.
The first period was relatively uneventful. Ottawa was playing messy and getting hemmed in their defensive end, which led to Acciari scoring his first of the evening off a broken play.
It was the second period where the wheels really came off. It took just over a minute for Acciari to score goal #2 off a slick feed from Jonathan Huberdeau. Artem Anisimov would respond quickly, however, getting the Sens on the board and keeping the score close for a moment.
Then the Panthers’ goals began to pile on. Aleksander Barkov made it 3-1 on the power play after the Sens’ defence lost coverage, then Acciari completed his hat trick off a point shot rebound. Mike Matheson stretched the lead even further off a slapshot from the top of the circle, and to cap it off, Domenic Toninato squeezed the puck past Anders Nilsson to make it 6-1.
The game was over after the second period, and both teams knew it. The final 20 saw uninspiring hockey from both sides — the Sens were resting themselves for their game the next day, and the Panthers were chipping the puck down the ice at almost every chance. Despite allowing six goals, Nilsson kept playing as to keep Marcus Högberg fresh for their back-to-back contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
While the Sens are far from being in the dumpster where they resided for the last two seasons, this game certainly brought back memories. If the players who’ve been hot to date start to trail off, we should expect to see these types of games a little more often.
- Despite being in the NHL against the team’s interest, Erik Brännström showed the electric offensive ability he possesses for the first time this season. He seemed significantly less hesitant to jump in the play to make a zone entry, and even though the results were mixed, it got me excited about his potential. Let’s hope D.J. Smith and Troy Mann encourage him to play this way more instead of less, as it seemed like he was being held back for the first few months.
- Colin White continued to struggle mightily this season. On one hand, I hope he’s playing injured so that this isn’t indicative of his true skill level. But on the other hand, it would be awful if he’s hurt and the Sens insist on keeping him in the lineup. Maybe Mark Stone was inflating his results more than expected, but he also looks like a completely different player.
- Nilsson’s save percentage of 80.6% doesn’t reflect how well he played in this game. Aside from the sixth goal, most of Florida’s tallies were either a result of awful defensive coverage, a favourable bounce, or a combination of both. The result could’ve been much worse had Nilsson not bailed out the defence on plenty more occasions.
- That pass from Tyler Ennis on Anisimov’s goal was cheeky. I’ll always appreciate a world-class fake shot.
The Florida road trip with the dads continues with the second half of the back-to-back, facing Tampa Bay at 7:00 PM.