Friday night was incredible.
It was the first game for the Senators in 310 days, and it felt amazing to finally cheer for our favourite hockey team once again. There was a sense of normalcy. The fact that Ottawa won was icing on the cake, and the Senators had a chance to pull off the unthinkable with a back-to-back sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
In a surprising twist, Matt Murray started again instead of Marcus Hogberg, while the Leafs countered with backup Jack Campbell.
Ottawa got off to a good start just over 10 minutes into the 1st period thanks to Nick Paul’s first goal of the season after a bit of a lucky deflection on a Nikita Zaitsev shot:
It was another great play from Paul, who has rightfully been receiving lots of praise during these first two games of the season.
Duck Dynasty himself, Joe Thornton, was able to tie things back up for the Leafs just over 3 minutes later after a smart play at the blueline from Mitch Marner, who corraled the puck and dropped it off to Thornton. It looked as if Murray wasn’t expecting Thornton to shoot, and considering his tendency to pass, it wasn’t a bad inclination. However, he ripped it past Murray, tying up the game at 1.
Just a minute into the 2nd period, Marner made his presence known once again immediately after an offensive zone faceoff. Derek Stepan lost the draw, and it looked like Mike Reilly lost Marner as a check, who was able to easily step into the slot and fire it past Murray to give the Leafs the 2-1 lead:
After two periods, the shots were a whopping 29-12 for Toronto, but Ottawa was somehow just one goal behind.
Auston Matthews made the game look almost out of reach when he made it 3-1 just under three minutes into the 3rd period. With Josh Brown in the penalty box for holding, Matthews scored on a one-timer from Marner (who else?) that Murray had almost no chance on. He was being partially screened on the side, plus Matthews’ slapshot was absolutely lethal. At that point, Ottawa had been quite lifeless since Nick Paul’s goal, and the game was becoming stale.
However, with 8:16 left in the game, the most exciting event happened for Senators fans: Tim Stützle’s first career goal. And this was no “score on a rebound in the crease that barely goes in and doesn’t look that nice”—no, this was honestly the best first career goal for a Senator that I can ever remember. The puck fluttered up in the air and nobody seemed to know where it was, but the entire time, Stützle was setting up for a half-volley that is much more difficult than he made it seem:
I cheered so loud for that goal, and it has probably been multiple years since I felt that excited after a Senators goal...what a feeling. That will be the first of many for Tim in a Senators uniform, and it’s hard not to be ecstatic about the future with him at the centre of it. An underrated aspect of this goal was how excited his teammates seemed to be for him afterwards, and you can tell he’s already fitting right in. After that goal, Ottawa seemed to have a bit of life because they were just one goal away from sending it to overtime.
Almost immediately afterwards, they went to the powerplay and you could feel the momentum shifting towards Ottawa. However, they couldn’t quite convert despite a wonderful opportunity right in front of the net from Evgenii Dadonov.
There was some controversy at the end of the game, as the officiating was extremely questionable. Tim Stützle was unable to draw a penalty despite clearly being interfered with in front of the net, then shortly after he was sent to the box with 2:49 left to play on an extremely weak call for tripping. I’ll leave my evidence below without further comment:
That final penalty made it difficult to get the tying goal, and Ottawa was unable to complete the comeback. Final score: 3-2. It would’ve been a shock to sweep this mini-series against the Leafs anyway, so this result was expected.
- I wouldn’t say that Stützle had a fantastic game, but it’s impossible to not be happy with his first goal. He is showing that he has enough speed and skill to be here, and I think once he settles his game down a bit, things will come a lot easier for him. At the end of the day, I’m mainly just happy that he’s on the board.
- Matt Murray made 37 saves on 40 shots, good for a .925 SV%. The Maple Leafs controlled the game almost the entire way through, and it could’ve easily been worse than 3-2 if not for Murray. He has looked solid so far, and it’s hard to ask for too much more considering the defense in front of him.
- Brady Tkachuk looks like a player that is ready to take that next step. He was held off the scoresheet but he is getting even better at winning puck battles and getting to the front of the net.
- Nick Paul was very impressive again, showcasing that perhaps he’s not just a 4th line player...maybe he can even turn into a 3rd line scorer? That would be a big development for the team.
- Evgenii Dadonov missed a glorious opportunity late in the game, and he hasn’t been able to make his mark with the team in either game. It’ll come, but he wasn’t particularly effective again last night.
- Cedric Paquette has taken two ill-advised penalties in two games and I would be quite surprised if he isn’t scratched for Alex Galchenyuk next game. Galchenyuk will have to get in at some point, and Paquette hasn’t brought a whole lot so far.
The Senators will face the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday at home (7:00 EST), although the Jets had to cancel practice yesterday, so hopefully the game will not have to be postponed.