At the outset of the season, expectations were sky-high among Ottawa Senators fans. When the team started the campaign 0-2, including a heart-breaking loss to the much-loathed Toronto Maple Leafs, there was a little bit of anxiety mixed in with all the starry-eyed optimism. No one would ever say that the third game of the season qualified as a must-win, but tonight’s match-up with the Boston Bruins felt like it had the potential to get things going in the right direction...or have them continue in very much the wrong direction.
It’s difficult to envision the Sens doing a better job with their first pre-game ceremony of the year. The building was rocking from the moment the player introductions got underway, and then, the big surprise:
It would be an understatement to say that the mood was electric right through the start of the game, and the Sens certainly seemed to take inspiration from the raucous crowd:
And then less than three minutes later:
Things were going so well that even after Drake Batherson had a goal disallowed for goalie interference by Brady Tkachuk that would have made it 3-0, Batherson potted a goal that counted less than two minutes later. All told, just over thirteen minutes into the first period the Sens were up 3-0 and looked virtually unstoppable.
Alas, it is very difficult to win in the NHL — especially against a squad as good, and as experienced as the Bruins. Before the first period was over, the B’s, via Patrice Bergeron, got one back after a bit of a wild scramble where Anton Forsberg lost his stick.
When the second period began, the Sens found themselves shorthanded with Artem Zub in the box for tripping. If there’s one thing that’s true of this iteration of the Bruins it’s that their power play can be absolutely lethal. David Krejici quickly showed why that’s true with a perfectly placed shot into the top corner. Just over a minute later, A.J Greer rifled one top corner off a broken play and suddenly it was 3-3. If this recap sounds breathless, that’s because there was just so much action. It’s not usually the case that you see six goals in the first 22 minutes of an NHL game.
To Ottawa’s credit, they did not appear to let the rapid evaporation of their three goal lead get them down. Indeed, they continued to push hard and goals from Shane Pinto, Tim Stützle, and Mark Kastelic in a five minute span gave the Sens another three goal lead at 6-3; breathless action, indeed.
Now stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Bruins tallied again, twice this time, late in the second to cut the lead to 6-5 heading into the final stanza. At this point of the game, I really did think we were headed towards a 10-9 final. The chaos levels were truly off the charts.
Maybe it was something that was said during the second intermission, maybe it was that Boston’s fatigue from playing the second night of a back-to-back finally caught up with them, but for most of the third Ottawa actually defended well. That’s not to say there weren’t some close calls, but things definitely felt more under control. All that was needed was a final goal for a bit of breathing room. Paging Zub:
After the Zub goal, the Bruins never really threatened again and the Sens mostly cruised the rest of the way to the victory. As DJ Smith said after the game
“Offensively, we did all the things we wanted to do tonight, but clearly we gave up too much. There were a lot of nerves, you could see it on the bench. I thought we played really well in the first two games [of the season] and didn’t get the results, so we’ll just take the win and move on.”
My key takeaways from the game: the Sens scored seven, the atmosphere was electric, and the proverbial monkey is off their backs. There’ll be time for more thorough analysis, and we can debate line-up choices until we’re blue in the face in February, but for now I’d recommend just basking in the glow of this one.
- Although total shots and chances ended up basically even, the Sens were clearly the better team at 5v5. Shots were 29-22 in Ottawa’s favour and the Sens also led the xG category with a 56.16 xG share. The Bruins ate Ottawa up on the power play, but the struggles of the PK are a story for another day. For now, I take a lot of comfort in the strong 5v5 play.
- Forsberg wasn’t stellar by any means but he also didn’t have the type of game that you’d typically associate with allowing 5 goals on 34 shots; in my extremely amateur opinion, there was maybe one or two goals at most that he should have had.
- Throughout the TSN broadcast, Gord Miller and Jamie McLennan repeatedly brought up how much this game would be a coach’s nightmare. On the one hand, I agree that DJ likely didn’t love that the Sens gave up five goals (and he said as much) but after all the bad luck of the first two games you have to figure he was relieved to see the dam break in such a big way. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a lot of positives.
- After the game, the Sens released a fun little behind the scenes look at Alfie’s return and puck dropping:
- Lastly, tonight’s game was the second Sens Money on the Board tilt of the year. I’m very proud to say that $1,220 was pledged, which, combined with Saturday’s total, brings us to $1,959 for the season so far. You can read more about Sens MotB in Ary’s write-up here, and we’ll be sure to advertise the next time an MotB game is coming up.