The Ottawa Senators travelled to Florida to play their annual back-to-back series against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. After expectedly being decimated by a score of 5-1 against the NHL’s best team the night before, the Sens rolled into Sunrise with the hopes of breaking their seven-game losing streak. And considering their roster, every game seems like an uphill battle at this point. But they managed to hang on, taking the two points with a 3-2 win.
Anders Nilsson and Roberto Luongo were the two starting goalies, and both were tested early. There were large momentum swings throughout the entire game, where it would seem that one team would have total control before the opposite team would do the same the other way.
It was Ottawa that got on the board first, though, and quickly. Five minutes in, Luongo stopped a couple dangerous chances from in close, but a rebound came onto Zack Smith’s stick who shot it past the sprawling goalie.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Aleksander Barkov evened the score. Mark Pysyk’s shot from the point was deflected by the Panthers’ star centre, and went past Nilsson. Pysyk, who isn’t much of an offenceman, picked up his third point in his last two games.
That wasn’t all for first period goal scoring, as a giveaway by Thomas Chabot on the failed clearing attempt led to a 2-1 Panthers lead. The Florida forwards found the open passing lanes, and Troy Brouwer was the finisher. Brouwer is also on a hot streak of his own, with five points in his last six games. Again, not someone you’d typically expect to be providing much on the scoresheet. The period closed with the Sens down by one.
One player that interim head coach Marc Crawford seems to be a fan of is Brian Gibbons. He may not be a flashy player by any means, and his results while with the Ducks were some of the NHL’s worst. Yet, Crawford couldn’t stop raving about the newly-acquired player after the previous game, citing his puck battling skills as something young players should aspire to replicate.
Agree or disagree with his comments, Crawford’s love of the fourth line centre may have been solidified tonight, as Gibbons scored his first goal as a Senator. Cody Ceci held the puck behind the net in the offensive zone, and saw Gibbons in front. The one-timer was too quick for Luongo to handle, knotting the game at two apiece.
While neither of the two teams came across as playing overtly physical, a hit by Oscar Lindberg on Vincent Trocheck seemed to stir things up. The hit in question didn’t even seem intentional, with neither of the two players looking at each other prior to contact and Trocheck just getting the worse end of it. That still set Trocheck off, however, going as far as jumping back on the ice after the whistle to chase down Lindberg. Luckily, the linesman caught onto Trocheck before he was able to escalate the situation even further.
One player who was on fire for Ottawa was rookie Rudolfs Balcers, who at times decided to put on an offensive showcase. He had a couple of nice dangles sprinkled throughout his shifts, and eventually ended up on the scoresheet. With Jonathan Huberdeau in the box for high-sticking (the game’s first penalty), Dylan DeMelo took a shot from a point. Balcers tipped it on the way to the net, gaining him credit for giving Ottawa back the lead.
The third period was more penalty-filled than the first two, with Lindberg being sent off once for Ottawa, and the Panthers giving the Sens a man-advantage twice with calls against Ian McCoshen and Mike Hoffman. Nevertheless, the penalty killing crews kept things stable at both ends, killing off everything.
The same pattern of constantly fluctuating momentum also continued, with both teams grabbing great chances. With the minutes ticking away, the Panthers became more desperate, putting on the extra attacker. Nilsson held down the fort, stopping 29 of 31 shots on route to a 3-2 Sens victory.
- Kudos to Marc Crawford for going back to the 12F-6D formation, as opposed to Boucher’s unorthodox 11F-7D, something he said he’ll try to keep permanent. I’m all for trying to gain a competitive advantage in hockey, although Boucher’s strategy just seemed to be creating more problems than it was solving.
- Another good move by Crawford was giving Christian Wolanin a chance in place of Christian Jaros. Wolanin earned an assist on DeMelo’s game-winning goal, and had an all-around solid game. A better move, in my opinion, would’ve been to scratch Harpur or Borowiecki and keep the balanced handedness. But it’s a minor step forward.
- Rudolfs Balcers was electric, and his goal ended up being the game-winner. I’m really happy with how he’s been able to transition to the NHL so smoothly.
- It was great to see Clarke MacArthur make an appearance during second intermission. I’m glad to hear that he’s feeling better, even if he isn’t coming back to the NHL. Even better is that Patrick Sieloff was traded less than a week ago, with the guy they got in return (Gibbons) also fetching a goal.
- There were 11,752 fans in attendance for this weekend game, giving the Sens a glimpse into what the Canadian Tire Centre will be looking like going forward.
One more game to go for this road trip, as the Sens travel to Brooklyn to face the New York Islanders on Tuesday. They’ll face the Islanders again at home on Thursday.