Well, that was fun, but not too fun.
The Ottawa Senators took part in an afternoon contest today, against one of their favourite opponents this season, the Montreal Canadiens. A strong 60-minute effort yielded a 4-0 victory in which both teams combined for just thirty-eight shots on goal, and the team’s first shutout in this shortened season, and their first overall under D.J. Smith. And yes, Ottawa remains the only team to not be shut out this year. Okay, maybe it was still really fun.
Shane Pinto took part in his first NHL game today and predictably won the draw on his first shift. More on his play, later.
After generating the majority of offensive zone pressure early on, Drake Batherson found Artem Zub from behind the net, and the latter fired a shot past the blocker of Carey Price, giving the good guys a 1-0 lead.
From there, Josh Norris and Josh Anderson traded quality chances at both ends, with both missing the net. Nikita Zaitsev then drew a (holding the stick) penalty on Tyler Toffoli, and on the ensuing power-play, Price was forced to make multiple stops, the best one coming off of the stick of Evgenii Dadonov.
A Brady Tkachuk interference penalty awarded the Habs a power-play of their own, but thanks to some great defensive sticks from Erik Brännström and Pinto, as well as a gutsy block by Josh Brown, Matt Murray didn’t have to do very much at all.
With the shots at 5-1 Ottawa, the pace of the game proceeded to transition to a snail’s pace. Both teams were very solid defensively, and the shot count remained at 5-1 all the way until the final minutes of the frame. Murray would have to bail out his team late, however, as he was forced to deny a golden opportunity from Jonathan Drouin off a hilarious turnover by Colin White.
The Senators began the second period up in shots 5-3, and with almost a whole power-play, but couldn’t achieve nearly as much as they did on their first one. Shortly after, Alex Formenton took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone but made up for it with a great chance out of the box after a few nice saves from Murray.
Despite another low-event period, the Senators were able to make the most of their very few chances; Batherson got into a prime position on an odd-man rush, and completely fooled Price, beating him five-hole.
Even with eleven shots allowed in the frame, the Senators’ defense had been sturdy through 40 minutes, and on pace for one of their more impressive road victories on the season.
Although the Habs turned on the jets at the start of the period, Murray continued his perfect afternoon, and the Senators settled things down as the period went on. With under five minutes to go, the Senators executed a textbook goal on the power-play, with the finish coming courtesy of Batherson, for his second goal and third point of the game.
Pinto would earn his first NHL point in this game, assisting on Zaitsev’s empty-net tally, to cap off a very solid first game. The Habs threatened the shutout a few times in the dying minutes, but Murray came through in what hopefully is a sign of things to come, a clean 4-0 victory. The final shot count was 23-15 in favor of Montreal, and while that’s a season-low for the Senators on the offensive side, they achieved a great feat by stifling the Habs, a team notorious for generating loads of chances.
- Shane Pinto was a professional NHLer today, in his first game, not even two years after being drafted in the second round. An assist is a plus, but it came second to great positioning and awareness which allowed him to make many small plays, none of which broke the game, but all of which helped to ensure Ottawa held their lead. Wonder what he’ll be a few years from now...
- Artem Zub and Erik Brännström both had a solid outing, posting positive xGF% numbers at 5-on-5. Thomas Chabot around even, while Nikita Zaitsev and Josh Brown struggled.
- Batherson had a three-point game and dominated alongside Tkachuk and Norris. He showed off some skill that’s typically reserved for prominent top-six forwards, which is a really good sign for Ottawa’s future.
Stats (from NaturalStatTrick.com):
- On Monday, April 19th, the Senators will head back out on the road and look to improve to 6-2 against the Calgary Flames. Puck drop is scheduled at 9:00 PM EST.