For a team like the Ottawa Senators, for whom many have the expectation of “lose, but make it entertaining”, games can’t go much better than last night.
The Sens put forth a generally solid performance, taking a 3-2 lead into the third period, but came up just short against an immensely talented Tampa Bay Lightning squad, ultimately falling 5-3.
Drake Batherson drew into the lineup for the first time since October, with Anthony Duclair banged up after blocking a shot against the Florida Panthers. The rookie impressed after lighting up the American Hockey League, and Craig Anderson stopped 25/28, but it would be the Bolts getting the last laugh.
The first period ended in a scoreless tie, but the Senators showed some offensive flashes on the powerplay, with some nice displays of passing by Batherson. Andreas Englund took on Pat Maroon in a spirited tilt, but all in all, the period was fairly uneventful.
A Tampa powerplay carried over into the second, but just 46 seconds in, Chris Tierney made a nice steal at the Ottawa blueline, and it turned into a shorthanded two-on-one with Connor Brown. Tierney attempted to make a pass to his teammate, but the puck bounced off of Victor Hedman’s skate, and past Curtis McElhinney to open the scoring.
The Lightning would respond just under two minutes later, when Carter Verhaeghe finished off a pretty passing play by Hedman and Yanni Gourde, and just like that, we were all tied at 1-1.
Tampa kept their foot on the gas, and less than a minute after the Verhaeghe marker, Ondrej Palat intercepted a pass by Brown. He found Brayden Point, who found Kevin Shattenkirk, who fired a slot shot past Anderson to make it 2-1 Bolts.
The Sens would battle back, however, and were rewarded on the powerplay 11:40 into the frame. Drake Batherson took a feed from Tyler Ennis, and made an absolutely disgusting pass to J.G. Pageau, who fired home his 19th of the year.
Slick feed from Batherson to find JGP and we're all tied up.— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 5, 2020
GOAL: Pageau (19) PPG
ASSISTS: Batherson (1), Ennis (13) pic.twitter.com/2u390PPnBU
The assist from Batherson marks his first NHL point of the season in his third game, and the goal from Pageau matches his 82-game career-high from 2016.
With the game tied at two apiece, the Sens continued to press the attack, and with nine seconds to go before the intermission, Mark Borowiecki fired an absolute laser from the point, giving Ottawa a 3-2 lead.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 5, 2020
GOAL: Borowiecki (5)
ASSISTS: Anisimov (2), Chabot (21) pic.twitter.com/2jgd4bgiTd
Unfortunately, the rocket off of Boro’s stick would mark the end of Ottawa’s good fortune.
Point tied the game at 8:37 of the third, when an ill-advised Thomas Chabot hit attempt sent the Lightning on a two-on-one with Nick Paul hustling back. Point waited out Boro, and made no mistake on the Mikhail Sergachev feed, to knot things up at 3-3.
Both teams played a tight-checking game from there, but with a minute and a half to go, it would be Tampa that broke through. Hedman made another really nice pass, and Tyler Johnson was all alone in front of the Ottawa net to tap home the eventual game-winner.
Ottawa thought they had tied the game late in the third, when Colin White made one of the single-most awe-inspiring plays that you’ll ever see.
I’ll let it speak for itself, I can’t do it justice.
Colin White tried heading the puck into the net.. pic.twitter.com/5X4EFT47Tp— Hockey Central (@HockeyCentraI) January 5, 2020
I love this team.
Unfortunately, White, along with the rest of us, would come to find out that this play was in fact completely illegal.
According to Rule 78.5 (i) "Apparent goals shall be disallowed when the puck has been directed, batted or thrown into the net by an attacking player other than with a stick."— Hailey Salvian (@hailey_salvian) January 5, 2020
Honestly, if you can pull off a header goal on a puck that bounced like 100 feet in the air off the crossbar, you should be allowed to, damn it.
Nevertheless, Alex Killorn added an empty-netter with seven seconds left, and the Lightning took this one 5-3.
- Perhaps a bit lost in the Colin White debacle, Drake Batherson had an unbelievable game. It looks like the return to Belleville has done wonders for his confidence, as he was making plays with no hesitation, and showing off his slick passing ability. If he keeps performances like this up, he may not be going back down at all.
- Despite the untimely pinch on the third Tampa goal, Thomas Chabot had another really nice game. He started the beautiful passing play on the Pageau marker, and tallied an assist on Boro’s. I’d like to see him play less minutes, burnout is a thing, but it’s hard to knock his performance. Chabot is turning into a star before our eyes.
- Brady Tkachuk quietly had a solid game. He had a 53.49 CF% in all situations, and was his usual dominant self on the forecheck. At the outset of the Florida game a few days ago, I remember TSN’s Mike Johnson talking about how, even when he’s held off the scoresheet, Brady makes an impact, and I couldn’t agree more. Tkachuk is a game-changing player.
- Despite drawing into the lineup for the first time since November 25th (Jesus), Mikkel Boedker played only 6:58mins. It appears safe to say that the Sens have given up on boosting his trade value, and are content to just ride out the remainder of his contract. Harsh, but his overall performance as a Senator hasn’t warranted much else.
- Mike Reilly made his Ottawa Senators debut, and had a decent game. He finished with no points and -1, but he’s decent on his feet and moving the puck. Hard to really complain about his game.
Ottawa was firmly in the driver’s seat, until the Tampa rally in the third period. Good for the tank, but need a 60min effort to win games.
Tampa was able to find their way into the slot for almost all of their goals, as the Sens’ defensive zone coverage left something to be desired. Ottawa, meanwhile, curiously found all their tallies to the left of McElhinney, and were able to generate their usual net-front presence.
The Senators get a couple days off, before visiting the league-leading Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pmET.