It was the return we had all been waiting years for: Freddy Claesson back in Ottawa.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, and the Ottawa Senators were trying to snap a 3-game losing streak. Despite our old pal Brian Elliott starting instead of Andrei Vasilevskiy, it was still the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions they were facing.
The first period was another frustrating one for the Senators. Despite out-shooting the Lightning 13-4, it was Tampa Bay who finished the period with a 1-0 lead. Ottawa controlled most of the play overall but an ill-advised slashing penalty from Dylan Gambrell led to a Victor Hedman goal powerplay goal. Matt Murray didn’t have much of a chance on it, as Hedman’s one-timer was deflected by Josh Brown. Ottawa had other chances to tie things up in the period but to no avail.
The Senators continued their solid play in the 2nd period as Connor Brown scored just his second of the season 1:39 into play. It was a goal that we had gotten used to seeing from Brown during last season, and it got the Senators back into the game:
Not long after, there was some controversy. Mathieu Joseph thought he scored his second goal of the season but there was mayhem in the crease. Murray was pushed back into the crease by Artem Zub, who was being pushed by Steven Stamkos, who was also being pushed by Nick Paul. It was one of the weirdest battles in front of the net that I’ve ever seen, and it was disallowed immediately by the referee.
Jon Cooper decided to challenge on the basis that Paul was the one pushing Stamkos, although I can’t recall a single time where the league has given an offensive player the benefit of the doubt in that sort of scenario. After a brief review, the call on the ice stood, giving Ottawa a powerplay:
A disjointed powerplay couldn’t capitalize though, and Joseph even had a short-handed breakaway to make up for his disallowed goal, but he couldn’t get past Murray.
Tampa Bay was determined to get the lead back though, as they flipped the script in the 2nd period with a dominant 20 minutes of their own. A failed zone exit and some poor defensive coverage led to Jan Rutta being wide open in the slot, and he wired a wrist shot past Murray with 9:54 to go in the period. It was another instance of poor defensive play that has plagued them all season.
Thankfully, Drake Batherson and Brady Tkachuk were able to salvage the period by teaming up for a late goal. A Lightning turnover gave Batherson the puck, and his perfectly-placed saucer pass made it easy for Tkachuk to one-time it past Elliott:
It was Tkachuk’s first as a captain, and he ended it with his classic Frank the Tank celebration. After 40 minutes, it was all tied at 2.
In the first half of the final frame, Ottawa had two glorious chances to take the lead as Alex Killorn and Jan Rutta took penalties. But with an uncharacteristically poor powerplay tonight, they couldn’t take advantage. In fact, just before the Rutta penalty, Steven Stamkos put Tampa Bay up by a goal for the 3rd time in the afternoon.
Thanks to a combination of a lack of rebound control and Victor Mete losing Stamkos in front, and it was an easy goal for Stamkos. After that point, it didn’t seem as if Ottawa exactly poured it on trying to tie the game. It looked as if Nick Paul might’ve made it 3-3 late in the game as the horn went off, but it hit the crossbar instead.
Ondrej Palat would essentially put the game to bed with just 1:41 to go, as he was left all alone on a breakaway. Cirelli added an empty-net goal after that as well, and then Logan Shaw’s goal with 16 seconds left obviously didn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. The final score was 5-3 in a game that felt quite winnable until the very end. The Senators are now 1-6-1 in their last 8 games.
- Drake Batherson now has 12 points in 11 games, which puts him tied for 10th in the league. He continues to be their best forward (and potentially player) thus far.
- I never know what to think of Murray. He looked solid at times, but four goals are four goals. He really only had a chance on the final two, but both of those were back-breakers.
- Tim Stützle continues to create chances but he needs to score. The only problem is his linemates are nowhere near good enough for him unless he’s playing with Josh Norris and Drake Batherson.
- Brian Elliott is now 7-0-2 against the Senators all-time. He and Robin Lehner just devour the Senators.
- Artem Zub was the only player above 50% shot share (58.06%), with Logan Shaw and Parker Kelly exactly at 50% and everyone else well below. However, some of their xGF% numbers were a bit better.
The Senators head to Boston to play the Bruins on Tuesday at 7:00 eastern.