The Ottawa Senators were long overdue for a game like this one. Believe it or not, going into today their shot metrics were pretty much around league average. Despite that, historically bad goaltending and shooting luck had handed them a 2-12-1 record through 15 games. The Winnipeg Jets had beaten them four times in a row and were looking to make it five straight after today, but the Senators had other ideas. And for once, the hockey gods were on their side.
Both teams had their chances in the first period, with Winnipeg dominating early, and Ottawa pushing back during the second half. While the Senators turned the puck over more than we’d like them to, they were able to recover thanks to solid defensive efforts such as Christian Wolanin breaking up a 2-on-1, and Thomas Chabot negating a breakaway by Mason Appleton. Marcus Hogberg, starting in place of the injured Matt Murray, was solid when he needed to be. The game remained scoreless going into the intermission, with the shots even at 8-8, and with the Jets up in 5v5 attempts 20-14.
Things started to get interesting in the second period. As before, Ottawa continued to mismanage the puck in their own end, but they didn’t allow too many quality shots to get to the net, until the 5:43 mark, at which Kristian Vesalainen sent the puck through Christian Wolanin, and Mark Schiefle capitalized on an easy tap-in goal. Now we get to watch Ottawa fruitlessly attempt to score a goal on Con-oh wait, the game’s tied? How’d that happen?
The team’s most high-profile free agent (in a long time) has struggled overall, but now has three goals in his last four games, and has settled in nicely on a line with Nick Paul and Colin White.
Both teams then traded power-play attempts and the Senators looked much better at both ends of the ice than they did last game. Breakouts and puck movement are still a work in progress, but they had their chances. As for the PK, they were the right amount of aggressive, and most importantly, they were able to get to pucks and successfully clear them out of the zone without giving up any chances. With the second period in the books, Ottawa had a 20-19 lead in shots but was down in 40-32 in 5v5 attempts.
After a few looks early on in the third period, Ottawa was constantly on the defensive. Winnipeg constantly had possession in the offensive zone, but the Senators’ defenders held strong, only allowing 12 of the 26 attempts to reach the net. When a breakdown did occur, Hogberg bailed them out and was drastically sharper than in prior games.
That being said, with time winding down it looked like the only options were a fighting chance in overtime, or yet another regulation loss. I was hoping for the former, but in true Senators’ fashion, that didn’t come to pass.
Something much, much better happened instead.
After finally recovering the puck in their own end, the Senators sent the puck into the Jets’ end, and after it was bobbled by Connor Hellebuyck, it was retrieved and sent back to the point. And with under nine seconds left...
Game. Over. A lucky bounce finally went the way of the Ottawa Senators to give them a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets. Marcus Hogberg, in a fantastic bounce-back game, turned aside 30 shots, while Ottawa put 29 on Connor Hellebuyck.
- A solid effort from the team today, albeit in a game in which they were not the better team overall. However, outplaying other teams hasn’t resulted in wins, either. It’s fair to say goaltending won this game for Ottawa, but it’s equally fair to say it’s lost prior games for Ottawa as well.
- Multiple defencemen made erroneous decisions tonight, but it was Nikita Zaitsev whose mistakes cost the Senators the most on the shot clock. with a 5v5 xGF% of just 28.95%.
- At the other end of the spectrum, the pairing of Mike Reilly and Artem Zub put up over 70%. Zub continues to stabilize the back end, and we can expect to see some more wins if the rest of the group can play to the best of their ability.
- Brady Tkachuk was long overdue for a goal. With a career shooting percentage of 8.6%, he’s the kind of player who will always put up a lot more chances than goals. However, going into today’s game, a shooting percentage of 4.8% wasn’t going to last.
- On Monday, February 15th, the Senators will look to go 2-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tune in at 7:00 PM EST!