The Ottawa Senators could be considered extremely lucky to have beaten the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, but against another strong opponent in the Colorado Avalanche, they put together a complete 60-minute effort in a thrilling, high-scoring affair and earned a 6-5 win in overtime.
The tone was set early on by both teams, as the Senators threw pucks on Jonas Johansson in the opening minutes, but it was Darren Helm who would get the first real scoring chance of the game and beat Anton Forsberg on the backhand.
We’ve seen plenty of early goals deflate the team’s momentum, but seeing it was because of failed zone exit as opposed to it being a Matt Murray Special, something told me they would stick around in this one.
Sure enough, Ottawa got some chances of their own soon after, and while Ottawa’s top sniper in Josh Norris missed the net, Brady Tkachuk, notorious for getting more chances than goals, fired a shot past Johansson to tie the game at one.
29 seconds later, the Sens were able to get some much-needed offense from their bottom-six, as another well-executed odd-man rush was finished off by Austin Watson.
It’s a much-needed goal for a veteran who’s greatly struggled this year. When he’s able to get into position for a high-danger chance, he’s actually pretty good at finishing compared to most fourth-liners. You’ve also got to give credit to Dylan Gambrell for that pass, for his first point in an Ottawa uniform.
The fourth and final goal of the first period would go to the Avalanche, as a Devon Toews point shot was deflected by Gabriel Landeskog to knot things up once again.
Overall, a very enjoyable period. Plenty of shots were taken by both teams, but at neither end was the front of the net open for business. Going into the intermission, Ottawa trailed in shots with 12, behind Colorado’s 13, but they led in 5-on-5 shot attempts 20-19.
From the drop of the puck in the second, Ottawa had a mission to take control of the game. First, Tim Stützle’s breakaway attempt was foiled by Jack Johnson, as the latter pushed him into Johansson. The refs confer for a bit and decide that since it’s Stützle, they can’t give him a drawn penalty, so they instead give him...a goal?
Clearly, the net has been dislodged before the puck crossed the line, but the officials determined that since Johnson was responsible for taking both the net and his goalie out of commission, and the puck ended up in what would’ve been the back of the net, it’s a good goal.
I’m sure there were many Avs fans up in arms about that one, it certainly was very similar to some of the flukey goals Ottawa had allowed in the past. Perhaps their following goal ninety-six seconds later is more acceptable — off a faceoff, strong puck movement from Thomas Chabot, and Brady Tkachuk creating chaos in front of the net lead to an easy finish for Josh Norris, who’s got his 10th goal of the season just over a quarter of the way through.
Justus Annunen would begin his first NHL game at this point, replacing Johansson, but there’s not a very high chance of him scoring his first goal, so we should be alright.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. After scoring just one goal in 21 games, Stützle would be happy to score his second of the season in any fashion, but, being the literal weapon that he is, he decided to go for another — this time a textbook power-play goal.
After receiving a magnificent pass from Drake Batherson, no doubt in return for this one last season, waited out the defender before burying his second of the night to make it 5-2 Ottawa.
Unfortunately, the Avalanche responded fairly quickly after, with Alex Newhook’s fantastic individual effort making it 5-3 Ottawa. Pour one out for Lassi Thomson, who looked like an AHL defender on this play.
With under five minutes to go in the frame, the Avalanche began to look like their regular selves. Nathan Mackinnon forced a turnover which led to multiple chances, including a wide-open net that Tyson Jost somehow was unable to score on. A TV timeout wasn’t able to settle things down, as Logan O’Connor had a massive breakaway opportunity to cut Ottawa’s lead to one, but Anton Forsberg was up to the task. Despite a strong period, the Sens were likely very happy to see the end of it, up 5-3 with a 27-19 advantage in shots, and 38-36 advantage in 5-on-5 attempts.
The Sens started off the period alright, but they still were unable to prevent an early goal against. Dillon Heatherington was to be called for a trip, but before the Sens could touch the puck, Jost made up for his earlier gaffe to deflect a MacKinnon point shot past Forsberg to bring the score to 5-4 in favour of Ottawa.
Shortly after, Alex Formenton hits Samuel Girard and is called for tripping because... reasons. I guess Landeskog’s up-ending of Thomas Chabot was still fresh in their minds, and they wanted a make-up call, but they also got the jerseys mixed up. That’s about the best explanation I could come up with, unless...the referees hate the Ottawa Senators? No, it couldn’t be.
Fortunately, Dylan Gambrell was up to the task on the ensuing kill, as he deflected a cross-ice pass before clearing the loose puck out of the zone.
Both teams spent the next few minutes trading chances, with Ottawa committing to team defense in a way we haven’t seen in a while. Facilitation of zone exits, as well as the prevention of their opponent’s zone entries, were both solid, and when an ill-advised pinch or turnover did happen, the forwards provided ample support to compensate. Defending a one-goal lead against a talented transitional team, could they hold out?
The answer would be decided by video review, as Gabriel Landeskog beat Anton Forsberg glove-side with 2:46 to go, but Ottawa challenged for offside. If unsuccessful, not only is the game tied, but the Avalanche get a power-play, and the Senators risk their incredible effort being all for naught. By a margin as small as you can imagine, the goal was overturned. Ottawa took that momentum and turned it into a decent shift in the Avs’ end. It was looking like they had secured two consecutive wins for the first time this season, but then...
All hope was not lost, as the opportunity to win in overtime still remained. With the Avalanche swarming the Ottawa end in the opening minute, it seemed like only a matter of time before the game would end. And it did, but not off the stick of an Avalanche player.
Instead, it was the captain.
An incredible finish brought the Senators their second consecutive win for the first time this season. For those of you counting, 23 goals have been scored across the two games between the Sens and Avs this year. Anton Forsberg made 26 saves on 31 shots, while Justus Annunen stopped 17 of 19 in the losing effort.
- It appears that Brady Tkachuk has ascended to a new plane of existence. I don’t mind pointing out that to my eye, he’s looked somewhat underwhelming for a good portion of the season, at least compared to his contract, but tonight he looked especially dangerous in the offensive zone and made a defensive play that ended up winning the game for his team. If he keeps it up, who knows?
- Could this be the moment the flood gates open up for Tim Stützle? Maybe. The thing is, he doesn’t necessarily need tons of goals this year. Here we have a 19-year-old forward who’s an everyday NHLer, taking the necessary steps to improve his two-way game, such that when he does have his breakout offensive season, he’ll be an elite player in the league.
- Austin Watson had a goal tonight and blocked multiple shots, each one earning approval from the bench. Who knows how much energy flows into the team every time he steps in front of enemy fire?
- Anton Forsberg is probably the toughest goalie in the league to evaluate. Tons of great stops, but an overall unimpressive body of work. His numbers were poor today, but he definitely came through for his squad at many key moments to help them get the win. As a backup, we could do a lot worse.