The Senators played maybe their best game of the season against the Oilers, but still lost thanks to the heroic one-two punch of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl played the role of goal-scorer tonight, completing his hat trick into an empty net with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.
The big story before the game was the return of Marcus Högberg to the lineup, after missing two months with an injury. I spent years conducting the Högberg hype train, and wrote off some of his early struggles this season as being stuck behind a bad team, but it was hard to argue with consistent results from him. He was regularly out of position, and posted an .859 save percentage in 10 games played, and even I was struggling to find positives in his game. When he left hurt, though, I was hoping it was a sign that he’d been somewhat injured all season, and could return and look like the player I’ve been expecting him to be all season. And to me, he looked right on the money tonight, staying in position, and was only undone by McDavid and Draisaitl.
The first period was sloppy for the Sens, with them outshot 17-7, and lucky to be outscored just 1-0. Draisaitl scored a powerplay goal to open the scoring, but the big story was Högberg, making some spectacular saves.
The second period saw the Sens beat Mikko Koskinen early, with Thomas Chabot pulling out the offensive skills we all know he has:
Ottawa actually looked much better this period, but they made the mistake late in the period of drawing a penalty. In a season in which they already brought back the original logo, they also brought back the Power Kill, allowing the Oilers the best scoring chances during the Sens’ powerplay, including a Devin Shore shot off the crossbar as the Sens made a very slow line change. That allowed Edmonton to seize back some momentum, and they made the Sens pay late in the period with a goal from an impossible angle by Draisaitl:
Call it confirmation bias, but I have a hard time blaming Högberg there. He had to square to McDavid, a real threat to score. He should trust a defender to notice Draisaitl. And Draisaitl’s shot was absolutely perfect. Högberg wasn’t so much cheating as respect McDavid, trusting his defencemen to take away the secondary threats.
The Sens started the third period strong once again, this time with Connor Brown extending his goal-scoring streak to five (5[!!]) games:
For a guy who’s had hands like Erik Condra since showing up here, that is a lovely goal. I wonder if he’s been working with a shooting coach or something recently, because five goals in five games is nothing to sneeze at. Ottawa pressed for most of the third, but with five minutes left, McDavid did one of the many things he does well: he walked through the Sens’ defence and beat Högberg with a lightning-quick release. The Sens pressed, but couldn’t beat Koskinen for the tying goal. With less than a second left, Draisaitl got the puck to centre and shot into the empty net for his third of the game. There was uncertainty as to whether or not the goal counted, but once it did, there technically had to be a puck drop for the final 0.7 seconds. This led to a hilarious sequence in which Ryan Dzingel and Adam Larsson faced off at centre ice with maybe a total of seven skaters on the ice between the teams. Larsson actually won the draw, the first faceoff win of the defenceman’s career, and the Oilers earned a 4-2 victory, with a chance for them to sweep the season series tomorrow afternoon.
- The Sens’ top line of Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Nick Paul played against the McDavid-Draisaitl-Jesse Puljujarvi line and did incredibly well. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Sens’ trio played 10:01 together, more than eight minutes of it against the Oilers’ top line, and posted a 5v5 Corsi percentage (all shot attempts) of 65%. That’s simply incredible against the highest-scoring duo in the league. Having a solid shutdown forward line would be a major boost for this team.
- Poor Tim Stützle. He has everything going for him except for the goals. His hands are still exceptional, his understanding of the play is great. He’s kind of looking like Drake Batherson early in the season, playing well (at least with the puck on his stick) but unable to catch an offensive break.
- That Connor Brown shot was actually a thing of beauty. Maybe.... he should...shoot... more? That was a weird sentence to type.