Apparently the Senators were saving their energy last night for this main event against the Stars. In one of the most complete efforts that Ottawa has put together this season, the home team racked up 46 (!) shots on goal and kept Anton Khudobin plenty busy with all four lines getting some looks in an exceptional team effort. Craig Anderson played a solid if unspectacular game after some bad bounces early on to lock up his 199th win as a Senator. Ottawa also played a particularly disciplined game as they didn't concede any powerplay time to Dallas.
DJ Smith did an admirable job in this one keeping his lines and pairings in tact for the most part and reaped the benefits as Ottawa started piling on the shots early. Dallas, however, struck first as a harmless looking point shot from John Klingberg redirected off Nikita Zaitsev and behind Craig Anderson who never saw it. At even strength, neither team really got into a groove following the early goal and it looked as though Ottawa’s powerplay would remain in its ongoing funk as they couldn’t generate much with Jamie Benn in the box for goalie interference. And then something clicked in Thomas Chabot who looked like a man possessed for the remainder of the game. Tommy set up a great play with Brady Tkachuk who, from below the goalline, found Jean-Gabriel Pageau alone out front and JG tied the game up.
After Ottawa squared things up, the Stars gradually balanced out the shot count and briefly took over the momentum. Again, DJ Smith did well to distribute minutes and having those fresh legs on the ice helped Ottawa from getting hemmed in. Dallas looked poised to breakout when Connor Brown channeled his inner Mark Stone (sorry) with this great steal leading to a Senators chance:
Great play from Connor Brown here earlier in the period. pic.twitter.com/a1avXAzy7v— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) February 16, 2020
Among the Senators with the most outstanding performances, Anthony Duclair appears first and foremost. While the Duke still didn’t bust his extended scoring slump, he had some excellent play-making moments and Brady Tkachuk buried this goal to take the lead after Duclair got the initial attempt:
Ottawa enjoyed a short-lived lead as Dallas tied the game up moments later on another point shot, this time courtesy of Stephen Johns. Scott Sabourin provided the screen on this one as again Craig Anderson never really saw it coming. Ottawa led Dallas in all shot types after the first frame in a period that saw over nineteen minutes of five-on-five play and just one brief powerplay for the Sens. DJ Smith must have felt elated with his team’s performance one the back half of a back-to-back and things only got better from there as Ottawa continued to dominate in shot volume in the second while also hanging around in shot-quality with a team that boasts the likes of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Miro Heiskanen.
This game had fleeting moments of chippiness that never quite boiled over. Brady Tkachuk and Corey Perry found themselves in the centre of most of the chirping and the two took offsetting minors early in the second as the officials deemed Brady had sold his follow-through on a Perry trip. Things opened up a bit more at four-on-four and Dallas began getting more odd-man rushes as the fatigue showed somewhat for Ottawa’s defence. To their credit, the Senators provided chances of their own and Thomas Chabot seemed at the centre of everything Ottawa got cooking. Ottawa looked especially strong in the neutral zone and managing the puck while lacking that elusive finish they had a surplus of in December. The Stars and their big guns had more of the grade ‘A’ chances but by the midway mark, Craig Anderson had put his first-period jitters behind him.
Brady drew another Dallas interference call to open up the third period, however, Ottawa’s powerplay failed to get the memo and generated little outside of one great chance for the still snake-bitten Anthony Duclair. Even this deep into the meeting, DJ Smith continued to show trust in his depth players and the extra rest paid dividends for the top-line guys as Chabot and DeMelo shut down a Stars rush at one end and sent Colin White, Drake Batherson, and Tyler Ennis off to the races where Ennis restored Ottawa’s lead:
The Stars pressed hard trailing by one and Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg both had the Sens defence and Craig Anderson beat on separate attempts that went off the posts. Jamie Oleksiak found himself staring at a wide-open net with six minutes to play and choked with Anderson sprawling to recover. At this point Dallas coach Rick Bowness opted to tilt the ice the old-fashioned way sending out Joe Pavelski with Tyler Seguin at centre and Miro Heiskanen on the back-end, and the Stars efficiently dissected the Sens’ defence to tie the game up with less than five minutes to play in regulation.
Craig Anderson and company managed to weather to Dallas storm and secure the loser point for reasons yet unknown. The Stars took no chances in overtime, sending out Benn, Seguin, and Klingberg to face off against Tkachuk, Pageau, and Chabot. By logic still elusive to me, Chabot looked like he still had a full tank of gas in the extra frame and everything Ottawa generated continued to run through him. Chabot got denied a call about two minutes in as Heiskanen hauled him down in the Stars zone. The Senators would get the last laugh nonetheless as Tkachuk found Anisimov behind coverage and Arty made no mistake roofing one on Khudobin:
- The Senators should feel proud after going toe-to-toe with a team hopeful of winning the central division and out-shooting and out-chancing them. Ottawa gave up a few odd-man rushes without ever looking totally outmatched and they often gave the Stars fits in their own end, all way playing a very disciplined game.
- After so many seasons having a reputation as a team that scores tonnes of goals to mask poor goaltending, it seems so bizarre watching a Dallas team with great goaltending and more of a goals-by-committee approach to scoring.
- I felt so happy seeing Anderson inch ever-closer to his 200th win as a Senator. He gave up a couple of flukey goals early and then settled in and earned the victory. He continues to inspire me with his devotion to this team through the longest seasons.
- Anthony Duclair may not have buried one tonight, but I assure you, he’s back to full capacity. The Duke ranked just behind Brady in individual expected goals-for and had five individual scoring chances. He seems to have put his injury behind him and has only to get over whatever psychological hurdle impedes him.
- To put into context how well Thomas Chabot played, he and DeMelo has five-on-five corsi-for percentages over 70 (!) in this one. And he played over 26 minutes again. In terms of quality, Chabot found himself just under 80% in five-on-five expected goals-for (while Dylan DeMelo somehow found himself at 86%). Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you want the best out of your star defender, maybe keep him with DeMelo forever.