I struggle to call it an NHL victory when it occurred against a clown team but alas, your Ottawa Senators came through with a big win for the culture tonight. While I can’t even fathom DJ Smith’s trepidation heading into tonight’s game with five defenders aged 25 or younger, and with 29-year-olds Ryan Dzingel and Nikita Zaitsev representing the veteran leadership group (peep that “A” on Zaitsev’s jersey!), the youth of tomorrow got the job done today in Ottawa.
With his freshly minted one-year contract for next season, Anton Forsberg made his first appearance in weeks and played arguably his best game as a Senator stopping 30 of 31 shots he faced. Forsberg demonstrated some solid puckhandling ability to lighten the load on the young defenders and made some very timely saves to keep Ottawa in it with the score close early on.
Of note, Olle Alsing (happy belated birthday!) made his NHL debut while Vitaly Abramov got in his first NHL game of 2021, and Jacob Bernard-Docker got his long-awaited second NHL game in. Also, boding well for Sens fans, Chris Cuthbert got the call on Sportsnet so the vibes certainly could have been worse on a Wednesday night.
Both teams came out the gate strongly and shots sat about evenly midway through the first period when Shane Pinto got the show started in earnest with his first NHL goal courtesy of fellow rookie Artem Zub and the legend-in-making Erik Brännström. You absolutely love to see Pinto get mobbed by fellow rookie Tim Stützle after that goal with Pinto parked right in front where he had so much success with North Dakota.
While things remained close for the remainder of the period, Montreal did manage to tie up the game just before the first intermission as a result of some miscommunication in Ottawa’s end. Fear not though dearest reader as the Senators took the second period by (Bone)storm starting with a lethal enough powerplay that failed to convert but whose momentum carried over to five-one-five and where Brady Tkachuk shimmied once more thanks to should-be Calder favourite Josh Norris and, once again, Erik Brännström.
Had our handsome young swede (one of two on the blueline for Ottawa tonight) had enough of all the assisting for one evening? Heck no. After another decent-looking if unsuccessful powerplay opportunity for the Sens, known defensive dynamo Nick Paul got revenge for that first period buzzer-beater with a late-in-the-period dagger of his own to give Ottawa a 3-1 lead with the apple going to—Brännström.
Montreal really tried to pour it on with the shot volume in the third after trailing 28-17 in the category through forty minutes. Score effects certainly took their toll and Forsberg looked up to the task as he deflected everything the Canadiens threw his way. With his eyes on another 20-goal campaign, Connor Brown got in on the action finishing a beautiful play from Ottawa’s top defensive rookie, Zub!
After exiting the game earlier on with an apparent injury, Alex Formenton once again had his exceptional speed on full display as he extended Ottawa’s lead to 5-1 midway through the final frame with Paul getting another point and Colin White adding an assist to his season totals. If I spoke nonchalantly about Montreal’s goal at the first horn, I did so because while Joel Edmundson did score in the first, Formenton forced him into retirement in the third. When someone does this to you on national television, you try another sport—like knitting.
White took a penalty late in the game and you would think Montreal would try to get some shots on net in the third period, even down four goals, but give some credit to Ottawa’s penalty kill as they conceded zero shots on goal down a skater. Not bad for a team made up predominantly of players too young to remember the Clinton administration.
- While Victor Mete didn’t get in on the offence tonight, he led the Senators in icetime and in five-on-five score- and venue-adjusted corsi-for percentage. Montreal could probably use a defender like that.
- The Habs continue to be the worst, directing nine hits at sweet, beloved Brännström tonight and taking a rare night off from high-sticking Stützle. Serenity now.
- As I mentioned, while the powerplay didn’t convert tonight, it had plenty of good looks with eight scoring chances per natural stat trick.
- Give Ottawa some credit for staying disciplined against a team they had already played nine times this season and who had taken plenty of liberties with the Sens’ rookies. The best revenge is living your best life.
- Tonight’s game was a textbook example of quality over quantity as Montreal had more shot attempts while Ottawa owned the expected goals including four rebounds for the good guys.