After overachieving for much of the early part of this year, the Ottawa Senators are going through a rough patch of play and the Florida Panthers took full advantage on Thursday night. With so many regular defensemen missing from the line-up, this was always going to be something of a tricky match-up for the Sens and besides a strong first period they were rarely able to generate much sustained pressure.
The first period did start well enough, with the newly assembled line of Anthony Duclair-Chris Tierney and Brady Tkachuk generating a couple of grade A chances. It was the Panthers that struck first, however, as Evgeny Dadonov buried a shot from in tight on the power play after Mike Hoffman’s centering pass went through Cody Goloubef’s skate.
Yes, you read that right, the pass went through Goloubef’s skate:
If you are the type of fan to believe in omens, well, that was a bad one.
To their eternal credit, the Sens once again responded to adversity by doubling down on the forecheck and Tyler Ennis equalized with just over nine minutes left in the frame when his backhand shot deflected off Riley Stillman’s stick and over Sergei Bobrovsky.
There was a briefly terrifying moment for Sens fans when Chabot blocked a Mike Hoffman wrister and hobbled awkwardly to the bench but the Sens’ rearguard didn’t miss a beat and went on to play a typical 27:28.
The Sens found their away ahead when Tierney buried a Duclair feed after Ennis won a puck battle on the sideboards to spring the rush chance. Duclair absolutely blitzed Keith Yandle to create the opening, showing off his world-class speed:
To complete what really was a great opening twenty minutes, Chabot drew a tripping penalty on Frankie Vatrano so that the Sens would open the middle frame with the man advantage and an opportunity to pad their lead.
Unfortunately for our local heroes, things could not have gone any worse after Florida killed off the power play. The Panthers have elite talent up front, and their skill eventually wore the Sens down in a catastrophic second period.
First, Tkachuk took a (questionable) holding penalty but the Sens successfully killed the it off. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before Mark Borowiecki took a (not so questionable) high-sticking penalty and with Florida back on power play, Dadonov potted his second of the night; this time converting a conventional pass from Johnathan Huberdeau.
On almost the very next shift, Colin White lost his stick and the Panthers cycled it in the Ottawa zone until Noel Acciari buried a shot to give Florida the lead. Florida must have had the puck in the Sens’ zone for a full 30 seconds before they finally cashed in and things seemed to be quickly unraveling.
A late power play gave Ottawa a chance to stem the tide, but after Tkachuk hit the post on a great tip Florida killed the remaining time on the penalty without much of a threat. Vatrano would give the Panthers a two goal lead with less than a minute remaining on the frame on a one-timer off of a 2-on-1. The Sens had been pressing somewhat right before this goal, but a puck bounced over Borowiecki’s stick at the blueline and Florida was off to the races.
Down 4-2, the Sens might have been happy to just get to the dressing room to try to regroup after giving up three goals in the frame but Colton Sceviour scored with less than 5 seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 5-2 lead they would never relinquish. Shots in the frame were 15-6 for Florida and they were full marks for the dominance on the scoreboard.
The Sens managed a late, last gasp when Connor Brown scored with 2:45 left but an Huberdeau emtpy-netter restored the Panthers’ three goal load and 6-3 was the final.
- It seems unlikely to have changed the outcome of the game, but White’s decision to try to play without a stick for nearly 30 seconds in the lead-up to the Panthers’ third goal was a perfect example of one of my biggest pet peeves: just go to the bench and get a new stick!
- DJ Smith reunited his favourite checking line, J-G Pageau, Brown, and Nick Paul to match up with the Huberdeau-Barkov-Hoffman line and they were reasonably effective 5v5. This also had the effect of reuniting Duclair and Tkachuk alongside Tierney, and that trio produced some of Ottawa’s best offensive moments (including Tierney’s goal, of course).
- Rudolfs Balcers made his season debut and had some good moments playing largely alongside White and Ennis. though he did also see some time on the second PP unit.
- Florida was the better team on the evening, but Ottawa did hit two posts and with a bit more luck it wouldn’t have been crazy to see this as a 5-5 game. Hockey is a game of inches, as they say.