At the outset of this 2021 NHL season, most Ottawa Senators fans found themselves in agreement that they didn’t care much about the final standings, so long as the team played competitive hockey, showed signs of development, and notched some wins against their rivals.
They checked every box, tonight.
In what may have been their finest performance of the season, the Sens earned a hard-fought victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Matt Murray was stellar, stopping 30 of 32 shots, and Brady Tkachuk again downed the Canadiens with an overtime winner.
The start of the game could perhaps be best-described as “Ottawa Senators-esque”. Entering the Montreal zone, Mike Reilly whiffed on a pass from Evgenii Dadonov, and Josh Anderson took possession of the puck for an odd-man rush into the Ottawa zone. He fed Nick Suzuki, who wired home his first goal since February 1st, to open the scoring just 1:17 in.
The Senators continued their recent display of poise, however, not wavering despite the early struggles. Ten and a half minutes later, Drake Batherson made a gorgeous toe drag move around Alexander Romanov, and his shot bounced up and over Jake Allen to tie the game.
Though both teams traded powerplay chances, neither could capitalize on their opportunities, and they headed to the second period tied 1-1. Ottawa out-shot the Canadiens 12-9.
The second period remained uneventful in terms of the scoresheet, but both teams had ample opportunities to break the tie. Montreal outshot the Senators 14-8, but Ottawa was given two more powerplay chances. They generated offence, with Erik Brännström in particular looking like a star — at both even strength and on the man advantage — but the score remained 1-1.
In the final frame, Ottawa built on the momentum generated by their powerplay chances. They carried the attack to the Canadiens, and were subsequently rewarded, just 3:33 after the period’s first puckdrop. Brady Tkachuk fed Nikita Zaitsev at the point, and Josh Norris made a deft little deflection that sent the puck soaring over Allen again, giving Ottawa the lead.
Seriously, one-handed? That’s a hell of a play.
The Senators’ pressure seemed to dissipate from there, though. Falling into the trap of defending their lead, Ottawa let up on their forecheck, and the Canadiens would make them pay. This time, it was Corey Perry making a rush up the ice, and dangling around Erik Gudbranson, before beating Murray to tie the game with with just under five and a half minutes to play.
Though easing their foot off of the gas pedal cost the Sens in the third, they came on again full force in the overtime.
At first, Allen was equal to the task. He robbed Brady Tkachuk on a breakaway chance with a two-pad stack, and then quickly stopped Connor Brown with another. Batherson and Brannstrom also saw glorious chances, with Brown hitting a post, but eventually the Ottawa onslaught was too much to handle.
Tkachuk tried to pass the puck through the slot, but it bounced right back to him off the skate of Romanov. Tkachuk quickly snapped the rebound past Allen, and gave his club their second win over the Canadiens in 2021.
All in all, it was a great win for this young team. They outplayed one of the top squads in the division for most of the contest, and were rewarded with a hard-fought victory. The fact that it was won by the kids is just the icing on the cake.
- At this point, what can you even say about Brady Tkachuk? With a goal, an assist and the game-winning goal, the dude dragged his team into the fight, once again. With another overtime winner against Montreal, he’s quickly earning a reputation as a Hab-killer.
- Drake Batherson had arguably his best game of the season, tonight. His goal came on a gorgeous move, and he finished with a Corsi rating of 52.38%, and an xG% of 68.24% at 5on5. Batherson has been generating offence at a steady clip this season, and now that the bounces appear to be going his way, don’t be surprised if there’s more coming.
- Michael Haley played 3:31mins, fought no one, and cost the team a too many men penalty. It seems like a better use of that spot would be a Matthew Peca, or perhaps one of the youngsters from Belleville. Alex Formenton, anyone?
- Tim Stützle posted an xGF% of 59.34%. His third-best of the season, Stützle is becoming more comfortable offensively, and is showing some obvious chemistry with Batherson. Get those two a true centre, and watch the fireworks.
- This team’s blue line sorely misses Thomas Chabot. Mike Reilly had the best Corsi rating of all defenders at 44.44%, and the Senators struggled in their own end, at times. Chabot’s skating and puck-moving ability just can’t be found elsewhere in this lineup, though Brannstrom’s game was phenomenal.
- Matt Murray is quickly rounding into form. He made some big saves when called upon.
Up Next: The Sens are back in action Tuesday night at 7pm, against these same Canadiens.