The Ottawa Senators work their rears off most nights, and despite being hit by a bad injury bug — especially on the back-end — the team played an entertaining contest against a much better Flyers team, and earned a point in the shootout.
Marcus Hogberg was almost the story of the night. After winning his first NHL game in overtime on Thursday against Nashville, the Swedish rookie made eight of his 35 stops in a busy overtime, and stymied two Flyers shooters in the shootout. However, his skaters weren’t up to the task, and looked out of gas in the extra frame. By my count, the Senators had the puck for <1:30 of the five minute overtime, and only generated one scoring chance to the Flyers four. In the shootout, Tyler Ennis, Anthony Duclair, and Vladislav Namestnikov were unable to get the puck past Brian Elliott, who remained undefeated against his former club (6-0-2).
Much of the attention before puck drop was on the growing feud between the two squads. The last time these two teams met, there was the well-publicized Scott Laughton — Brady Tkachuk business, with Laughton getting the last laugh in the form of the game-winner, and Tkachuk receiving the first fine of his NHL career after jumping the Flyers forward with 30 seconds left. However, with Laughton out with a groin injury, the attention shifted to Mark Borowiecki, who laid out Travis Konecny with a (clean!) hit, but led to the former ‘67 missing time with a concussion. Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault even went so far as to dress goon Chris Stewart, who chatted with Borowiecki pre-game, but only played 3:49.
Thankfully for everyone involved, most of the sparks tonight came in the form of whistle-to-whistle on-ice action.
For what it’s worth, Konecny delivered the first hit of the contest — a crunch on Borowiecki on both of their first shifts — which was indicative of the way the pressure swung early on. Thomas Chabot, who played just under 34 minutes tonight, took the first of two first period penalties with a trip on Nicolas Aubé-Kubel two minutes in, and resulted in a goal in the back of his net. With the Sens penalty killers, especially Andreas Englund, doing a great job of preventing the set-up, things started to unravel during a shorthanded chance. Chris Tierney picked the puck off and got a good chance on Elliott, but after gathering the puck, Jake Voracek delivered a quick two-line pass to Kevin Hayes, streaking down the left side. Hayes outmuscled Brännström, and beat Hogberg by opening the netminder up and shovelling the puck to the opposite side.
The Senators started to build some momentum by way of Connor Brown, who was persistent on the forecheck and looked really good in the first period — setting up Nick Paul for a slot chance and working down low with Pageau and Tkachuk. Consistent with the theme of the Sens top guns running out of gas, all three played above 20 minutes, and by the end of the night, got filled in when it comes to shot attempts (<45% CF%).
Much of that was due to the effectiveness of Philadelphia’s top line of Konecny, Couturier, and Claude Giroux, who were dancing all night. While they didn’t generate any of the Flyers goals, they generated nearly half of the team’s 5-on-5 attempts, and were all at or above 70% CF%. Many of their chances came in the high-event first period, where the Sens were rocked in every major category except shots on goal (17-15!).
How were the goals scored?
Let’s start with Philadelphia, because outside of Hayes’ powerplay marker, the Flyers other goals either came in the first or last minute of the period through fortunate bounces, or defensive breakdowns. At the start of the second period, James Van Riemsdyk won a puck battle with Cody Goloubef and Thomas Chabot, and gave the Flyers a 2-0 as his centering pass went off of Goloubef’s skate and through Hogberg’s five hole. At the end of the period, after Ottawa stormed back to take a 3-2 lead (more on that in a sec!), Voracek tied the game on a broken play, potting a loose puck into a wide open cage after Tyler Pitlick sent a hard, close-range slapshot into Hogberg, who was caught off guard by an uncharacteristic Chabot giveaway to Morgan Forst. Finally, to start the third, JVR put the Flyers back on top 4-3, putting a backhand shot five-hole past Hogberg on a breakaway. Cody Goloubef was victimized again, reading Aubé-Kubel’s clearing attempt to the middle of the ice completely wrong, and was in poor position to defend a streaking Van Riemsdyk.
How did Ottawa score?
The second period was the team’s best of the night, and much of it had to do with the play of Tyler Ennis and Anthony Duclair — the team’s best forwards on the night. Ennis scored the first of his two goals with his trademark persistence, sneaking in on a double-shift with JC Beaudin and Colin White. Beaudin used his quick feet to pressure Elliott into turning the puck over behind the net, and as the puck circled back to Colin White, the winger dropped it to Andreas Englund. The rookie got a hard shot through to the net, and it bounced to Ennis to put it in on his second attempt. It was Englund’s first NHL point in his 13th NHL game (over four seasons).
On the team’s next shift, Mark Borowiecki showed off why he doesn’t fight much this year with his fourth goal of the season. Namestnikov won a puck battle on the right-side, and Ennis’ puck retrieval popped the puck to Erik Brännström. The Swede quickly sent the puck to the left point, where Borowiecki fired it past a screened Elliott to tie the game at two a piece.
Shayne Gostisbehere deserves an assist on the Sens final goal of the second period. With the Flyers on a powerplay, Gostisbehere gets pressured by Duclair and takes a holding penalty — ending his team’s advantage. On his next shift out of the penalty box, a clearly frustrated Gostisbehere takes an undisciplined holding penalty on Colin White, putting the Sens on the powerplay. The Sens played catch around the perimeter, but eventually, Chabot got frustrated and shot the puck into bodies. While his attempt was blocked, Duclair was able to sneak into the middle of the ice and rifle the loose puck past Elliott — notching his career-high 21st of the season.
Ottawa’s last goal came 10:17 into the third period, with Tyler Ennis getting his second of the night. What I love about the way Ennis plays is that he’s always buzzing around the net, utilizing his strengths — his strong skating, quick hands, and hockey sense — to make the most high-danger play. There was nothing going on this shift until Ennis decided to take the puck into the Flyers’ zone, circle around the net, and center the puck into the middle of the ice for Mark Borowiecki. Boro, to his credit, tried to pass the puck for the one-timer option, but got intercepted by Duclair in the middle of the ice. No one was expecting that, especially Brian Elliott, because while Duclair’s weak backhander was stopped by the ex-Sen, he was out of position for the rebound, and Ennis was able to pot the puck into the open net.
Highlighting the special teams
We’ve talked about the goal-scoring events that came on the special teams — one for each team — but Ottawa’s penalty kill deserves some extra praise. In the third period, the Sens had two key kills: a Brännström interference call on Voracek, and a too many men call on Brady Tkachuk with ~2:30 left that left him agonizing in the penalty box — unable to watch. With a depleted defence, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Connor Brown, and Anthony Duclair were their usual superstar selves, and even the unlikely heroes, like Hogberg, Andreas Englund, and Erik Brännström (when he wasn’t in the box), made key plays.
The powerplay went 1/4, but generated 1.24 xGF (to the Flyers 0.41) and could’ve scored two or three times. In the first period, quick puck movement from Duclair to Tkachuk led to a nice tip play to set up Logan Brown, but the rookie was robbed by Brian Elliott going post-to-post:
Even 4-on-4, which happened in the first via Andy Andreoff and Thomas Chabot penalties ~10 seconds apart, Connor Brown and Vladislav Namestnikov had golden opportunities to score, but couldn’t pot the puck past Elliott.
It’s partly why the overtime period stings so badly, because whatever team speed the Senators had outside of 5-on-5 earlier in the game was no longer there in the extra frame. The Flyers had the puck for most of it, and if it wasn’t for Hogberg stopping sure goals from Giroux, Hayes, Provorov, and Couturier, the game wouldn’t have made it to the shootout.
Ottawa plays Buffalo on Monday before getting a holiday break until Sunday, December 29th. With five of the team’s last six games going to overtime or later, the injured Senators could use an extended break to stick Thomas Chabot into a hyperbaric chamber.