Consecutive victories have been hard to come by for the 2021 Ottawa Senators, but in a wild affair with the Montreal Canadiens, they found a way to win.
Brady Tkachuk led the way with two goals and an assist, Erik Brannstrom scored the first of his career, while Tim Stützle and Josh Norris solved Carey Price in the shootout, and the Senators came out victorious by a final score of 5-4.
Matt Murray stopped 30 of 34 shots, while not giving up a goal on three times in the skills competition.
The Senators picked up right where they left off in Monday night’s overtime. Just 1:36 into the game, Derek Stepan hit Drake Batherson in the slot with a gorgeous pass, and the youngster beat Carey Price with a slick backhand move to open the scoring.
The momentum carried over to a powerplay near the period’s midway point. On a man advantage that looked miles better than anything we’ve seen from the Sens this season, they generated chance after chance, with Stützle in particular getting three great shots off. Ottawa capped off the opportunity when they got the Canadiens on a change, and Tkachuk snapped a quick shot through Price to make it 2-0.
It wasn’t just the momentum that carried over, however, with the game seeing tons in the way of that familiar animosity between Ottawa and Montreal. Tkachuk and Ben Chiarot dropped the mitts at 13:56, and Brady left the defender with a bloody and mangled nose.
Montreal got on the board at 16:03, when Shea Weber banked a shot off of Nikita Zaitsev’s skate and in, but the teams headed to the second with Ottawa leading 2-1, and on another powerplay.
Said man advantage would be extended when a Weber high-stick broke Tkachuk’s front tooth, and the Sens were able to convert again. This time, it was Erik Brannstrom letting go a quick point shot, and the puck bounced off of Nick Suzuki’s skate and in for the defender’s first NHL goal.
The Habs quickly got one back on the ensuing shift, with Thomas Chabot turning the puck over at the Ottawa blue line, and Johnathan Drouin squeaking a soft one through Matt Murray.
Around then, it seemed like pucks stopped bouncing Ottawa’s way.
Montreal was able to generate sustained pressure, and a wide-open Weber blasted a shot from the blue line through Murray to make it 3-3 at 10:06 of the second.
Ottawa would have to kill a penalty, but the score remained 3-3 going into the third.
The Habs came on strong in the third, and despite a larcenous save by Murray on Josh Anderson, Ottawa was unable to weather the storm. Tyler Toffoli snuck around Brannstrom, and beat Murray with another one that he should have saved.
Not to be outdone, Tkachuk responded a little over two minutes later with his second of the game, tying it at 4-4.
Ottawa ended regulation on their heels, and it looked like Brendan Gallagher had the game-winner on a deflection with two seconds left. After a lengthy review, however, it was ruled that Gallagher made incidental contact with Murray, and the goal was wiped out, sending these two to overtime for the second straight game.
After a wild extra frame that saw both Price and Murray make sensational stops, the game headed to a shootout. Ottawa would finally come out on top with Murray besting three straight Montreal chances, while Stützle and Norris both made good on their opportunities, handing Montreal a third straight defeat.
While sloppy at times, the Senators earned another hard-fought win. Though they face question marks in terms of health, things appear to have turned a corner for now.
- Brady Tkachuk should be the captain of this team. That is all.
- Derek Stepan left the game in the first period with an apparent shoulder injury, and did not return:
Stepan goes off with what looks like a shoulder injury. #Sens pic.twitter.com/niek21rFHC— Alex Metzger (@nhlsensandstuff) February 24, 2021
As someone who’s done major damage to their shoulder, requiring surgery, I can tell you from experience that this does not look good. Hopefully Stepan isn’t as banged up as he appeared.
- This was one of the worst games I’ve ever watched Thomas Chabot play. He was making uncharacteristic mistakes, and appeared to be a step behind the play all night. He finished with 45.90% Corsi rating, and an xG% of only 41.93%. I’m left wondering if Chabot is fully recovered from his recent injury. If not, it may be best to sit him down until he is. No sense risking long-term complications in a year like this.
- Tim Stützle had some giveaways, and his underlying metrics aren’t flattering, but you can clearly see a kid figuring the NHL game out. He was masterful on the powerplay, generated some great chances, and his shootout marker was a thing of beauty. It’s coming along.
- Erik Brannstrom had a nice evening, save for getting dangled on the Toffoli goal. Plays like that are going to happen to a young guy, so just chalk it up to a learning experience.
- Matt Murray was hit and miss. Some big saves to go with some soft goals. Hopefully this is a one-off, and we see his newfound consistency return, next time.
Up Next: The Senators kick off a three-game set with Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pmEST.