A season that opened with so much optimism is beginning to fade into repetitive frustration.
Holding a lead over the Winnipeg Jets in the third period once again, the Ottawa Senators gave up four unanswered goals, and fell 6-3 in the final contest of this “series”. Marcus Hogberg did all he could, stopping 32 of 36 shots, while Andrew Copp led the way for Winnipeg with a pair of goals.
It was a first period with an unfitting conclusion. The Senators came out flying; Connor Brown, Drake Batherson, and Christian Wolanin all had great chances to name a few, but Connor Hellebuyck made some marvellous saves. The previous game’s venom carried over into today, evidenced by the insertion of Michael Haley into the Ottawa lineup. He dropped the gloves with Nathan Beaulieu a little after the five-minute mark.
Despite the early energy, the Jets would strike first on the powerplay. With Mike Reilly in the box for tripping, Nikolaj Ehlers fired a low one-timer from the the faceoff circle, and the puck just squeaked through Hogberg’s five-hole. It was a tough goal by any metric, but nevertheless, the Sens headed to the second down 1-0.
The next 20 minutes would be where the Senators took off. Still pushing the attack, they finally broke Hellebuyck’s shutout 4:04 into the frame, with Evgenii Dadonov’s first as an Ottawa Senators. It was a goal that the Jets’ netminder likely wanted back, but Dadonov having the wherewithal to get the puck to the net - even after getting tripped and sliding across the ice - made for an impressive first marker.
Not to be outdone, the Jets regained their one-goal lead a little over four minutes later. Another pretty passing play by the top line - like we’ve seen a few times in this series already - culminated in a Kyle Connor goal, and Winnipeg went up 2-1. Jets captain Blake Wheeler earned his 500th career assist on the play.
The period’s torrent pace continued, though, with the Senators coming right back and putting another one by Hellebuyck. This time, it was a heady play by Austin Watson to throw the puck towards the goal. Brady Tkachuk was the recipient of a fortunate bounce, and he swung the tying goal over the red line to make it 2-2.
While Hogberg would be called on to make some big saves in the next few minutes, they were capped off by a beautiful goal from Nick Paul. He skated in over the Winnipeg line, and let loose a quick wrister that handcuffed Hellebuyck, and gave Ottawa their first lead since Tuesday night.
As Sens fans have seen through a few games against Winnipeg, though, they are a veteran team that will not go gently. Less than two and a half minutes into the third, Ottawa’s defensive zone coverage broke down, and Paul Stastny fed Andrew Copp, who tapped the tying goal past Hogberg.
The Jets continued their strong response in the third. They began to establish a consistent presence in the Ottawa end, and the Senators were kind enough to help them out with some horribly ill-timed penalties. The relentless pressure finally broke through, with Derek Stepan in the box for sending the puck over the glass. Paul Stastny batted his first of year out of the air to make it a 4-3 game.
1:10 later, Copp tallied his second of the game to push the Winnipeg lead to two. An answer from Chris Tierney off the ensuing faceoff would be called back due to Connor Brown being offside, and Mark Scheifele would add an empty-netter, and hand Ottawa a 6-3 loss, and their fourth straight defeat.
When all was said and done, the Senators just didn’t do enough to build on, or defend their lead. They registered just four shots in the third, and got themselves into the all-too-familiar penalty trouble that we have seen in 2021, so far. While the return of Tim Stützle will help the offence continue to perform, this team needs to get better defensively, especially in the situations where the game is on the line.
It was a game that will also further the divide among coaching decisions, and fan sentiment. Once again, it was Ottawa’s youth that powered them in all facets of the game, while their veterans committed the costly errors. Stepan, by his own admission, can’t take that penalty, and it was the likes of himself, Watson, Tierney, and Cedric Paquette at the bottom of the possession charts once more.
If the Senators want to get off of this losing streak, they not only need to string a complete game together, but they need everyone to pull their weight.
- Senators forward Cedric Paquette exited the game in the second period with a lower-body injury, and did not return.
- Nick Paul continued his impressive start to the campaign. Not only was his goal a beauty, but he’s even managed to have a positive impact playing with different linemates. His possession numbers suffered because of the team’s dreadful final period, but Paul has arguably been the Sens’ best player through the opening five games.
- Connor Hellebuyck is 6-0-0 all-time against Ottawa.
- Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson were the Sens’ Top 3 players in CF%, and xGF% tonight. The first line has consistently been the team’s bread and butter on a nightly basis. Give them all the opportunities.
- Drake Batherson isn’t tallying points on a nightly basis, but they’re coming. He is so strong on the puck, and his confidence is allowing him to make plays. The same can be said of Josh Norris.
- Marcus Hogberg was decent in his first start of 2021. Rebound control was iffy at times, but he made some huge saves, and was absolutely shelled in the third.
Up Next: The Senators are back in action, Monday night in Vancouver. Puck drop against the Canucks is scheduled for 10pmEST.