When the Ottawa Senators ended the shortened 2020-21 season on a high note and started looking ahead to 2021-22, there was one narrative that kept being brought out as a reminder to Sens fans to keep their expectations in check. That narrative was that last year’s North Division was “bad” and that any team that played in it should expect to regress this year.
Now. That’s definitely true of every team other than the Sens, but Ottawa? No. Ottawa was a force for evil last year, a team that wreaked havoc on the entire country of Canada and thoroughly humiliated every team that had the misfortune of facing off against them.
So how would they fare against an American team? That’s the big question the hockey world has been dying to know - clearly, as the Sens’ first game against an American opponent since March 2020 was the only game scheduled for the whole day. At long last, it was time for the Sens Sickos to turn their attention to an American opponent.
And the result? They sens’d ‘em. Just as we all expected.
Let this game serve as a warning to every team that hasn’t played Ottawa since 2020. No one is safe from them. No one.
The Senators came within inches of scoring the first goal of the game about five minutes in, with the first line on the ice and Norris chipping away at the net. That came at the end of a fantastic offensive sequence where Stützle showed off how much strength and confidence he’s built up over the offseason.
Unfortunately, the Stars scored right off the next faceoff. Shockingly, Del Zotto and Holden were on the ice. Welcome to 2021-22! 1-0 Dallas.
The excitement continued, though, as Ottawa immediately struck back with a goal of their own. Noted Dallas Stars draft pick Nick Paul got this one, and it was a beauty. 1-1.
nick paul is the best hockey player on the planet pic.twitter.com/deTEsoOVcr— thomas williams (@nosalaryretaind) October 17, 2021
The poor Stars didn’t know what was coming for them.
The Sens continued to dominate after that first goal. The play was fast-paced and absolutely thrilling, a far cry from last night’s dud of a game.
A scary thing happened toward the end of the first period, when Nikita Zaitsev sent a slapshot to the net that ended up hitting Josh Norris in the face. Norris was alright, thankfully, but it didn’t look nice. Is Zaitsev secretly trying to take down this team from the inside? You can’t rule out the possibility.
Stützle took a pretty weak hooking penalty right at the end of the period. He clearly wasn’t especially happy about it:
Ottawa started the second period on their second penalty kill of the night, and it was once again a very good one. The Stars had now failed to record a shot on either one of their powerplays.
I can’t even list all the great Sens chances that happened in the first half of the second period. Gustavsson had to make a few big stops, but for the most part it was thrilling Sens chance after thrilling Sens chance. Check out this absolutely filthy pass from Drake Batherson:
Just before the halfway point of the game, Ottawa got a four minute powerplay. It felt like they were long overdue for a goal, and sure enough, they pulled ahead just before the first penalty expired. Pinto made the shot, but it bounced off Chris Tierney, in some kind of elaborate metaphor for this season’s battle for the second line centre position. 2-1 Ottawa.
I will not be commenting on which part of his body Tierney scored that goal with.
Dallas finally woke up a little bit after that goal, and the rest of the period was a lot more even.
Right at the end of the frame, Stützle left the ice with a wrist injury after being slashed during the faceoff. There was no penalty on the play, but the Sens did get an unrelated powerplay around the same time. Thankfully, the Sens got just a little bit of revenge right after that, with Chris Tierney scoring his second of the night, also assisted by Shane Pinto. 3-1 Ottawa.
The third period kicked off with a wonderful sight: Tim Stützle, back on the Sens’ bench. We found out after the game that the injury was indeed not serious, and our boy should be perfectly fine. Crisis averted!
DJ Smith confirms Tim Stützle is fine - they did an X-ray within minutes. Said they were worried because he’s injured that same region of his left wrist before.— Claire Hanna (@clahanna) October 17, 2021
(Also I was today years old when I found out NHL teams had that type of medical imagery in-house ). #sens
After the excitement of the first forty minutes, things calmed down for the final frame. The Stars were actually keeping pace with the Sens, although neither team was getting any especially good chances.
With just over five minutes left in the game, the Stars pulled within one on a scramble in front of the Ottawa net. 3-2 Ottawa.
Credit to the Sens: they played incredibly well after that goal. Stützle very nearly doubled the lead with a beautiful scoring chance, but was turned away by the Stars’ goaltender. This kid could easily have five goals already this season.
I’m definitely jinxing it, but it’s very encouraging to see the team able to defend a lead like that. It’s not something you see often from teams as young as this one, and certainly not something we’ve seen in Ottawa in a very long time.
- Nick Paul was a beast all night long. Just on another level. I love this guy.
- In general, the penalty kill had a very good night.
- I said this earlier in the recap, but Tim Stützle looks so much stronger and more confident this year. The scoresheet absolutely does not reflect his performance. He was very dominant.
- Del Zotto did not have a particularly good start to his time as a Senator. He wasn’t quite as noticeably bad as the Mete-Zaitsev pair was last night, but it definitely felt like a lot of the Stars shots and scoring chances happened with him on the ice.